The Quincy Gems secured a 4-2 Prospect League victory on Wednesday, thwarting a comeback bid by the Hannibal Hoots at Clemens Field.
Tyler Engel hadn't pitched in a game for five years before taking the mound this summer for the Quincy Gems.
His sidearm delivery has led to surprising success.
The reliever racked up 10 consecutive scoreless innings entering Wednesday's Prospect League West Division game against the Hannibal Hoots at Clemens Field.
Staked to a four-run lead, that streak ended when the right-hander gave up a run in the seventh inning. Stephen Haring came home on a fielder's choice to give the Hoots their first tally of the night.
But Engel limited the damage, inducing a fly out from Hannibal No. 3 hitter Dylan Dodd to strand the bases loaded.
That proved to be a vital pitch as the Gems held on to win 4-2.
“The game plan was basically to throw something over the plate to give him the chance to put it in play,” said Engel, a junior who primarily has been an infielder at the University of Illinois. “I wasn't going to walk him because we didn't want to give any free runs away. We've got nine defenders in the field so I wanted to challenge him.”
Connor Pasko scored on a double steal to cut the Hoots' deficit to two in the bottom of the eighth. He came home as the Gems tagged out a Hannibal teammate in a rundown between first and second.
Daunte DeCello reached base for the third time in the game when he led off the bottom of the ninth with a double down the left field line off Quincy closer Jordan Bock.
A foul out and pair of strikeouts ended the contest.
“That's just baseball,” said DeCello, who joined the Hoots on June 30 and has hit safely in four straight games. “Some games go your way and some don't. It just happened to not go our way tonight.”
Riley Pittman put the Gems in the lead from the get-go with a two-run double to left-center in the top of the first.
His RBI knock drove home Bailey Montgomery and Aaron Campbell.
“It got to a full count, and I figured I was probably going to get a heater because he didn't want to load the bases with a walk,” said the Quincy first baseman, who went 2-for-3 with two walks. “I was looking to get something elevated to stay out of the double play, and fortunately enough, I got a good swing on it and put it in the gap to get us started."
Adam Nelson worked with the lead for all 5 2/3 innings of his scoreless performance to record his third win of the summer.
The Tioga, Louisiana, native struck out four while allowing just three hits and issuing no free passes.
“Give credit to Nelson, he got a lead that first inning and threw lights out as long as he went,” Pittman said. “He was filling up the zone and letting our defense work.”
Nelson helped himself with a heads-up play on defense in the third. Tommy Kraus hit a come-backer to the mound. The Gems hurler fielded and threw to catcher Max McGuire to tag out DeCello at the plate.
Pittman made a highlight-worthy catch in shallow right field for the third defensive out of the fourth for the Gems.
The infielder chased a popup and cradled it with his back to home plate.
“That was a little bit of instincts and a little bit of luck,” he said. “Honestly I was just going to get the ball but was thinking somebody would call me off. Nobody did, and it just fell in my glove.”
Dalton Overstreet kept the Hoots in the game with his longest outing of the season. The Hannibal native pitched six innings while surrendering three runs to take the loss.
Overstreet allowed just two hits after the first inning.
“If Dalton would consistently throw strikes, he would have a chance to be the best pitcher on our staff," Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks said. “He found a way to manage. This was one of his toughest performances digging deep and finding a way through.”
DeCello mentioned his starting pitcher deserved to earn the win.
“Dalton pitched a heck of a game,” the infielder said of Overstreet. “We have all the faith in the world in him on the mound. We just needed to help him with run support.”
Graham Kuck kept Hannibal within striking distance with a key strikeout in the eighth. The Hoots reliever struck out Gems cleanup hitter Cody Klotz with the bases full to escape the inning.
But the comeback bid came up short for the Hoots, who fall to 16-21 with a second loss to their river rivals in as many days.
Hannibal is scheduled to play a doubleheader at Danville on Thursday.
Quincy improved to 18-21 and is off Thursday.