BAXTER — Baxter's baseball team faced a big deficit heading into the bottom of the seventh inning on Friday against GMG. But the Bolts chased the Wolverines' best pitcher Zach Krull after six innings because of pitch count rules.
Trailing by five runs, Baxter rallied without getting a hit, walking seven times in its final at-bat in an 11-10 home win during Iowa Star Conference South Division play.
With the game tied, freshman Jake Travis hit a fly ball to left field and freshman Cody Damman sprinted home for the game-winning run. It was the only ball the Bolts had to put into play in the seventh inning.
"I thought we'd maybe put a few more balls in play, but we did what we had to do to win," first-year Baxter head coach Brett Slight said. "It was interesting, but I am glad we came out on top."
GMG used four different pitchers in the seventh inning. None of them threw strikes consistently.
Junior Jalen Porter and freshman Trey Wesselink both walked on four pitches to start the inning. Sophomore Nate McMinamen then drew a seven-pitch walk after a full count to load the bases.
Freshman Cael Shepley followed with a walk to bring home Porter. Wesselink then scored on a passed ball. After a pitching change, sophomore Rory Heer walked to re-load the bases.
Damman's RBI walk brought in McMinamen and senior Cole Damman's RBI walk allowed Shepley to stroll home. Heer was plated when senior Carter Nelsen was plunked on the first pitch from Noah Teske.
That's when Travis delivered the game-ending, walk-off sacrifice fly.
"I know they were anxious to get that big hit, but they did what was right for the team," Slight said. "We had to take some strikes to force them to throw enough and they were unable to do that."
The Bolts led 3-1 after one inning. GMG cut its deficit to 3-2 with a single run in the third. The Wolverines took the lead with a three-run fourth.
Baxter tied the game at 5-all with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, junior Andrew Klemme was hit by a pitch. Heer then reached on an error and Cody Damman walked to load the bases.
Cole Damman drew a walk to bring in another run and Nelsen's RBI sacrifice fly to deep left field knotted the game.
GMG regained the lead with an unearned run in the fifth and then scored a controversial run in the top of the sixth.
With one out, the Wolverines drew back-to-back walks. A ground ball moved the runners up a base and GMG went up 7-5 on wild pitch. Klemme, who was on the mound in relief, applied the tag on the Wolverine runner but the umpire called him safe.
After Slight asked for a second opinion, the two umpires stayed with the original call.
In the seventh, GMG extended the lead to 10-5 after drawing a lead off walk and taking advantage of two Baxter errors.
"Errors cost us a little bit and a tight zone throughout the game made it tough for all the pitchers," Slight said. "That's no excuse. We have to throw strikes and limit our walks. So that didn't help us at all."
The game turned though when Krull was forced off the mound because he reached his pitch limit. The four relievers combined to walk seven and hit one but only got one out in the seventh.
"Our goal was to get him out of the game," Slight said of Krull. "We knew if he was out, we'd have a better chance to win, and that's what happened. It worked out in our favor."
With the game falling on a Friday, it's common for small-school programs to run out of pitching. That may be what happened with GMG. Baxter though still had a few options left.
Cole Damman was the starting pitcher but lasted only 3 1/3 innings after allowing five runs — three earned — on three hits with five strikeouts, six walks and one hit batter.
Travis pitched two innings of relief, surrendering two runs — one earned — on two hits with two strikeouts and five walks. Klemme gave up three runs — one earned — on no hits with one strikeout and one walk.
The winning pitcher was Shepley, who came in to get the final two outs in the seventh. He allowed one hit.
"Luckily, we had some guys available today," Slight said. "That usually doesn't happen for us so we did get a little lucky in that regard.
"It's a huge win. It was a conference game and we got a second win over them. It was fun for sure."
The Bolts (4-5, 4-4) won the game despite collecting only five hits. Heer, Cole Damman, Nelsen, Travis and Wesselink all had one hit apiece. Cole Damman walked three times and had two RBIs, Heer scored three runs and Nelsen tallied three RBIs.
Cody Damman walked four times, McMinamen drew a pair of walks and Wesselink scored two runs.
It was the fourth conference game decided by one run this season for Baxter. The Bolts are 2-2 in those games with the other win being 12-11 over Collins-Maxwell. Friday's win completed the season sweep of GMG, which lost at home to Baxter 5-1 earlier this season.
The Bolts play Colfax-Mingo at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Colfax.