Three times the West Virginia Miners had the game-tying run at third base with one out. Three times, they didn’t score.
And Mitch Schulewitz pitched himself into Terre Haute Rex lore.
The right-hander worked out of jams in the eighth and ninth innings, preserving a 2-1 win over the West Virginia Miners Tuesday in Game 1 of the Prospect League Championship Series.
Trailing 2-1 in the eighth, the Miners put together a rally when Dylan Harvey was hit and Hunter Vansau reached safely on a bunt down the first base line.
After a Zach Sterry sac bunt moved the runners over, Schulewitz relieved Damon Olds. He struck out Dan Ward, and Jonathan Weeks tapped out to end the threat.
Dom Iero led off the ninth with a double and moved to third on Jesus Villalobos’ groundout. Stone Osborne bounced out to second and Iero, after breaking for the plate, decided to hold at third.
Schulewitz then struck out James Keller to end the game.
“When you put yourself into position to win, you’ve got to take care of business,” Miners manager Tim Epling said. “That’s all I can say. You play to win, and people that are passive, or not aggressive in situations, this is what you get.”
Schulewitz earned the save with two strikeouts and one hit over two scoreless innings of relief.
“The last couple of innings got pretty exciting,” Schulewitz said. “That ninth inning, Andy (DeJesus) and Korie (Vire), our shortstop and second baseman, made some nice plays for me. (Iero) froze on that ground ball and we got lucky to get out of it. It was a really exciting ending to that game.”
The Rex broke a scoreless tie with a two-run fifth inning.
Vire led it off with a walk and Greg Popylisen singled. DeJesus bunted to the third base side of the mound, and Miners reliever Conor Grove could not field it, loading the bases.
Eric McKibban then lined an 0-2 fastball to left field to score Vire and Popylisen for a 2-0 lead.
Terre Haute had its chances early.
DeJesus led off the game with a single and took second on McKibban’s groundout to third. But DeJesus tried to go to third, and Sterry fired to Ward to complete a gift double play.
The Rex loaded the bases off Miners starter Ar’Tom Rank with one out in the second, but Popylisen hit into a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
The Miners — back in the postseason after missing out last summer for the first time in their six seasons as a franchise — never really threatened Terre Haute starter Jeremy Randolph before the seventh.
Randolph retired the first seven hitters before giving up a single to Stone Osborne in the third. Osborne was then picked off by the right-hander.
Ward hit into an inning-ending double play in the fourth and stranded runners at first and second in the fifth.
West Virginia finally broke through against Randolph with Jesus Villalobos’ RBI single to score Ward and make it 2-1 in the seventh. Iero, who had walked, was stranded at third after back-to-back strikeouts of Osborne and Keller.
Randolph got the win, scattering five hits over 6 1-3 innings. He struck out four and walked four.
Grove suffered the loss for the Miners.
Today is the series’ travel day. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be played at Bob Warn Field. First pitch would be 7:05 p.m. both days.
The Rex will be trying to become the first team not called the Miners, Gems or Paints to win a Prospect League championship. Quincy has three (2009, 2011, 2014), West Virginia two (2012, 2013) and Chillicothe one (2010).
“This game’s crazy,” Terre Haute manager Bobby Segal said. “You’ve got to play until that 27th out is made, no matter which side of the ball you’re on. Our guys have done that all year. Our approach to the game is not going to change. You’ve got to execute and you’ve got to take care of the baseball. Usually those teams come out on top.”
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