By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The St. Joseph Mustangs are, by now, pretty used to close, dramatic games. The team owns six walk-off victories and have won 11 games by one run this summer.
They earned one of those 11 victories on Friday at a time when they needed it most.
The Mustangs (36-15) lost an early 3-0 lead, regained the lead in the sixth and held on for a 6-5 win against the Joplin Outlaws at Phil Welch Stadium Friday night in the second game of the MINK League Championship series.
A must win for St. Joseph, who entered the game down in the series 1-0.
"It feels great," Mustangs manager Johnny Coy said, relieved. "Especially with the kind of crowd we had out here tonight. I expected our guys to compete like they always do. They've been so tough all year. We got down, we came back. That's how it's been all season."
"I wasn't surprised, but at the same time, I'm super happy for them. I know they enjoyed this win tonight and they'll be ready to go Saturday."
After a slow offensive start for both teams, St. Joseph managed three runs on two hits and an error in the bottom of the third to nab their first lead lead. Brady Holden, Noah Bodenhausen and Tyler Petrosino all scored in the frame.
Joplin got on the board in the top of the fifth. Korey Siracusa led off the frame with a walk and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch.
The Outlaws (25-22) took their first and only lead in the top of the sixth, scoring three runs on a hit, two walks and an error. They walked in one run, while a two-run RBI single by Caden Bressler scored the other two.
St. Joseph had the answer in the bottom of the sixth. A hit, a walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Bodenhausen, who singled to center to score a pair of runs and put the Mustangs back in front 5-4.
Jaxon Himel then scored on an error to make it 6-4.
"It's so special," Bodenhausen said of the win. "We have all these fans here to watch you. A lot of them I know just from being around here all my life. Feels great. Not only are we doing it for ourselves and the team, but we're also doing it for the fans and the city."
Joplin scored one more run in the top of the seventh, but a 6-4-3 double play ended the threat. Morichika Hama finished the job with a two-inning save, striking out two and allowing no hits in the process.
"He just does what he always does," Coy said of his closer, who got his fourth save of the season. "Not shocked at all. He goes out there and has a 3-4 pitch mix and keeps hitters confused about what's going on. He's been awesome all year, came in at the right time and was able to get us a win."
St. Joseph now gets to host Joplin for the third and final game of the championship series on Saturday night at 7.
History is on the Mustangs' side. St. Joseph has now won seven straight at home, and are 23-5 at Phil Welch Stadium this summer, including 20 of their last 21. Remarkable.
Not only that - St. Joseph has a chance to win its third straight MINK League title and eighth overall, while Joplin seeks its first ever.
It's been a tough series so far, and Friday's game alone proved anything can happen. But, the Mustangs should like their odds at home. Especially if it's a close game.
"In a tight situation, there's no one in the league who's seen it more times than our team has," Coy remarked, "and I'm pretty confident in our team's ability to pull out a win when we need to."
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