The Rangers and Machine squared off, in their usual back-and-forth battle, at Centerville high school on Sunday, July 2. Coming off of last year's final meeting, a 16-15 12-inning loss in the playoffs, the Rangers looked to rebound in this season's first matchup with the Machine. Out of the 10 meetings between these 2 teams, 7 of those contests were within 3 runs, and this one expected to be no different.
The Rangers jumped out early on Machine ace Paul Wilson, scoring three times. Brandon Riley doubled to left. After Ben Schooler was hit by a pitch, Ryan Kemp singled home Riley for a quick 1-0 lead. Brandon Marshall walked to load the bases, and Stephen Hoendorf followed with a walk as well, plating Schooler. Wilson induced a ground ball out to force a runner at the plate, and then Jonmarc Lippincott hit a sacrifice fly to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
New folk hero Joe Becker returned to the mound and kept the Machine from turning in that one bad inning that always seemed to do in the Rangers. In the first inning, the Machine got a two-out RBI triple from Logan Gray to chip in to the Rangers lead at 3-1.
The Rangers' bats stayed hot in the second as Eric Becker led off with a single. Nick Gilmore walked and Brody Dunlevy laced a single to left to score Becker. Ryan Kemp added a two-run triple to increase the lead to 6-1.
In the bottom of the third, Kevin Reynolds hit a sac fly to center to make it 6-2. The Rangers got the run back in the top of the fourth on an RBI groundout from Marshall. With a 7-2 lead, the Rangers offense stalled and the Machine motored their way to tying the game late.
Charles Bradds had an RBI single in the 4th. Logan Gray launched a moonshot for a solo homer in the 5th. Brehon Perry and an RBI single in the 5th and Bradds added an RBI groundout. The final nail in the coffin came in the 7th on an RBI single from Gray to tie the game at 7-all.
Ryan Kemp took over on the mound in the bottom of the 8th and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced. However, a pair of walks later put runners on the corners. An intentional break to second from the runner at first caused a balk to be called, giving the Machine its first lead of the game.
Down but not out, the Rangers had one final chance at redemption. Gilmore led off the inning by absorbing Wilson's fourth HBP of the game. Wilson was removed in favor of Kevin Reynolds, who was having a breakout season in his return to the league. Reynolds got popups from Becker and Riley, as the Rangers were down to their final out.
Ben Schooler then stepped up and delivered the key blow with an opposite field double to the fence as Gilmore scampered around the basepaths to tie the game. Kemp was then intentionally walked to face Marshall, who was just as clutch and smacked a seeing-eye single between short and third. Schooler raced around third and scored on a bang-bang play at the plate. Kemp, who took third on throw, came home on a throwing error from the catcher.
Staring at a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the 9th, Kemp struck out the first batter, but allowed a sharp single to center from Wilson. A wild pitch put Wilson at second base, which turned out to be good luck for the Rangers. Kemp got Gray to ground out to Marshall up the middle who was able to quickly tag Wilson off the bag and followed through with a throw to first to end the game on a double play.
Kemp struck out four in two innings for his first MVABL victory.
Offensive highlights: Brandon Riley 2-for-5, 2R, double; Ben Schooler 1-for-4, double, 3R; Ryan Kemp 2-for-3, triple, 3 RBI; Eric Becker 2-for-4, run; Brandon Marshall 1-for-3, 2RBI.
Historical Notes: Shawn Schmitt needs 7.67 innings pitched to reach 900 career innings pitched. Jonmarc Lippincott is 2 games away from 600 career games played. Nick Gilmore is 5 at-bats away from 200 career at-bats.