The Rangers and Redlegs kicked off the 2020 season for the rare Opening Day Backyard Battle. These teams have met twice previously on Opening Day with the Rangers winning both occasions. After 5 1/2 hours of well-awaited action and 15 innings, we'll have to wait until a later date to find out a winner, as both teams settled for an 11-11 tie in order for the second set of teams at the field could get their game in before dark.
The Rangers sent Joe Becker out for his fifth Opening Day start against the Redlegs' Aaron Carmack. The always-tough Carmack was just that, shutting out the Rangers over the first three innings. Meanwhile the Redlegs offense jumped on Becker in the first as Mike Hartman hit a 2-run single, staking the Camden club to a 2-0 lead through 3 innings.
The Rangers sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the 4th, scoring 7 times. Nick Gilmore started things off with a walk. After a groundout and a walk to Cooper Nolte, Ben Schooler came through with an RBI single, his 200th career hit! Nolte would score on a wild pitch to tie the game. Kyle Moyer followed with a hard single up the middle, where Schooler was able to score from second to give the Rangers the lead. Carmack was relieved for Michael Cookson, who walked Dominic Kuzujanakis and Markus Neff before Chris Jones singled to plate Kujo. Neff would later score on a wild pitch, and Jones would score on an error to give the Rangers a 7-2 advantage.
Becker was sent back out for one batter in the bottom of the fourth. His goal was to get an out out of Jacob Robinson, a .643 career hitter against Joe. Becker was able to induce a groundout to shortstop, resulting in the 5000th career IP in Rangers history! Becker was relieved by Zach Losey, making his MVABL debut. Losey, a Ball State pitcher, would record 7 Ks over 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Meanwhile Cookson struck out a pair of Rangers in the 5th and Kevin Campbell would strike out the side in the 6th. The Redlegs chipped away at the score in the bottom of the 7th on Rangers reliever Ryan Qvick. Redlegs' Matt Mattice had a 2-run single before Qvick settled in. Ryan got Jesse Jones to fly out to Moyer in center, where he was able to fire a strike to home to throw out James Robinson who was attempting to tag up from third. Qvick ended his afternoon by striking out All-Star shortstop Matt Morrison.
The Rangers got the two runs back in the 8th off of Redlegs reliever Tristan Sipple after a walk, an error, and a couple wild pitches. Rangers pitcher Brandon Saylor would toss a scoreless 8th inning.
Holding to a 9-4 lead, the Rangers handed the ball to rookie Kenny Owens in the bottom of the ninth. Owens got a strikeout and a lineout, but then fell victim to some ill-timed porous defense. Mattice would reach on a swinging third strike that couldn't be contained. After a walk and a single, a grounder and a popup in the infield couldn't get handled. The nail was driven as Kyle Arend smacked a game-tying 2-run single. Becker re-entered to pitch and got a groundout to end the inning.
From that point on, the two teams would be playing extra baseball. Becker would throw 3 more scoreless innings before handing the ball to Schooler in the 13th inning. Jesse Jones toed the rubber in extras for the Redlegs and was shutting down the Rangers until the top of the 15th. Nolte led the inning with a single. Becker had a pinch-hit single. Moyer hit a ball back to the pitcher, resulting in Nolte getting gunned down at the plate. After Kujo walked, Neff put on his clutch pants and roped a 2-run single down the third base line.
However, the Redlegs wouldn't go down without a fight. Sipple was hit by a pitch, followed by back-to-back singles by Saige Micomonaco and Campbell. Schooler got a big double play ball that allowed Sipple to score. But former Rangers' James Robinson foiled his former club by singling to left-center to tie the game again at 11-11.
Both coaches agreed after the 13th inning to go no longer than 15 innings before suspending the game to allow a second set of teams to get their game in before dark. This game will be continued August 16th as part of a DH at Carlisle HS.
CONTINUED on 8/16.....
Hunter Kraynak took the pill as the 8th pitcher of the game for the Rangers and was dominant for 4 shutout innings. Kraynak was helped defensively with a pair of double plays. Meanwhile, the Rangers had to do something they hadn't done since June 2016 and that was beat Aaron Carmack. Carmack struck out 5 of the first 11 batters he faced, but he Rangers offense came alive in the top of the 19th. Gilmore led off with a hit-by-pitch, and Ryan Qvick ran for him. After a walk to Pederson, Nolte hit into a fielder's choice to put the winning run at third. After Nolte stole second, Joe Becker who tends to make a habit of clutch hits, roped a single to center to score the eventual winning run.
Offensive highlights: Joe Becker 2-for-3, GW-RBI; Chris Jones 2-for-6, RBI.
Historical Notes: Rangers take a 21-19 led in the Backyard Battle series. Rangers use a record 8 pitchers (Joe Becker pitched twice). The 19 innings is most likely an MVABL record.