The Rangers got its season back on track with a pair of close wins over the Wright Knights at Fairmont high school.
MVABL Hall of Fame pitcher Joe Becker took the mound in game one in his second attempt for league victory No. 50. The Knights put together a 2-out rally in the bottom of the first inning as Anthony Turner singled and scored on rookie Jake Hyatt's double to give the Knights a 1-0 advantage. Markus Neff kicked off his first AB of the year to start the second and was able to reach base via a dropped fly ball. Brandon Marshall followed with an RBI double to tie the game. After a passed ball put Marshall on third, Cal Walters hit a sac fly to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Becker settled in and allowed just one hit over the next few innings. Meanwhile, the Rangers' bats continued to produce against Knights starter Austin McCabe. Chris Jones and Nick Gilmore singled in the top of the third with one out. Rob Pederson then laced a 2-run double. After Ben Schooler reached on a fielding error, Neff came through with a 2-run double of his own to increase the Rangers score to 6-1.
Kyle Evans plated Parker Liston with the Knights' second run of the game in the bottom of the fifth as Becker exited with a 5-2 lead. McCabe found his groove, blanking the Rangers over the final four frames. The Rangers went to the pen and brought in Hunter Kraynak to preserve the lead. The Knights went out 1-2-3 in the sixth, with the help of shortstop Cooper Nolte's superman-esque diving snag to end the inning.
The Knights looked to rally in the bottom of the 7th as Brody Dunlevy walked and Anthony Jackson doubled. After a flyout, Jeremy Bristol hit a grounder to third, but the throw home eluded the catcher to score Dunlevy and bring the Knights within 3 runs. A HBP loaded the bases, but Kraynak was able to strike out the next batter and get a ground ball out to give the Rangers the victory.
The Rangers took a script out of the Tampa Bay Rays playbook and started reliever Ryan Qvick to pitch the first inning of game 2. Qvick rebounded from a rough outing last week and showed why he's one of the toughest lefties in the league. Qvick struck out the first batter he faced. Then after issuing a base hit, he promptly picked off the runner. The next batter reached on an error, but Qvick K'd the cleanup hitter to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Rangers took advantage of some whipping winds to right field in the bottom of the first. After Gilmore and Pederson reached base and with two outs, Cal Walters, Kyle Moyer, and Eric Becker tripled in succession to build a 4-0 lead. Last year's ERA leader Ben Schooler entered in the second inning and gave up an RBI single to Zach Gomia and a 2-run single to Alec Hutzelman. But the Rangers got those 3 runs back in the bottom of the inning on Schooler's 2-run single. Pederson, who earlier walked, scored on a passed ball to build the Rangers lead to 7-3. But the Knights took out their frustrations in the top of the third, batting around and scoring 7 times.
Brandon Saylor relieved Schooler in the third inning, allowed a double to the first person he faced, but struck out the last two batters. In total, Saylor would punch out 8 Knights batters over the final 4 2/3 innings and not allow another runner to score.
The Rangers battled back in the bottom of the third inning to regain the lead. Pederson and Schooler had RBI hits as a part of a 4-run inning as the team took a 1-run lead. Insurance was added in the bottom of the fourth as Eric Becker led off with a double and scored on Chris Ridl's second double of the game. Jonmarc Lippincott brought home Ridl with a run-scoring single to finish out the scoring.
Offensive highlights: Nick Gilmore 2-for-6, 4 runs, 2 SB, 2 HBP; Rob Pederson 3-for-5, 4 runs, 3 RBI, double, SB; Ben Schooler 4-for-7 3RBI; Cal Walters 3 RBI, triple; Eric Becker double, triple RBI; Chris Ridl 2-for-3, 3 runs, 2 doubles, RBI; Jonmarc Lippincott 3-for-4 RBI.
Historical Notes: The Rangers need 17 more runs to reach 6000 franchise runs. The Rangers need 53 more hits to reach 8000 franchise hits.