The Abilene Rebels traveled to Junction City for a Tuesday evening double-header, played at historic Rathert Stadium, and came away with a split.
The Rebels played some of their best baseball of the season against the Junction City Blues American Legion team in winning the opener 9-3, but dropping the nightcap 6-5 as Junction City won with a walk-off hit in a really good baseball game.
In the opener, Abilene got on the scoreboard first with a run as Michael McClanahan led-off the game with a walk, Kaden Coup singled, Carter Taplin was hit by a pitch and Robbie Keener hit a sacrifice fly to score McClanahan. The Rebels stranded the other two. Junction City tied the game with a pair of singles and a walk.
In the second inning the Rebels sent four to the plate and everyone hit the ball, but Samuel Burton was the only one to record hit in the scorebook, with the others grounding out.
Abilene had a big third inning, after one out. Coup got it going with a double to right-center, and Taplin singled and stole second. Roman Sanchez singled. Coup scored on a passed ball and Sanchez moved to second. Stewart Scott reached on a walk. Then came a double-steal that paid off for the Rebels. Ayden Taylor came through with a big single to drive in Sanchez and Scott. Ben Short walked but was stranded. The Blues went down in order in their half of the third, and Abilene led 5-1 after three.
In the fourth inning, Kellen Signer reached on an error, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on a Coup single. Coup was stranded on third. Junction City went down in order again via a groundout and two strikeouts.
Abilene added to its lead in the fifth inning with one out as Scott, Taylor, Short and Burton drew consecutive walks with Burton’s walk scoring Scott. Signer then sacrificed to bring Taylor across the plate. The Blues plated a run in their half of the inning after their lead-off hitter reached on an error and later scored on an error. The Rebels led 8-2 after five innings.
Abilene got a run across in the sixth inning with Coup getting a leadoff double, his fourth hit of the game. He scored on a throwing error as he attempted to steal third base. Keener walked and Scott singled in the inning, but they would be stranded. Junction City added a run in their half of the inning on a pair of hits and a stolen base. A strikeout, a fly out, and another strikeout ended the threat. Abilene won as the game ended due to time limit in six innings 9-3.
“There must be something about us playing at this nice facility. We have played well here for the past few seasons,” said Abilene coach Billy Hansen. “We played solid defense, and had some quality at-bats offensively. Roman pitched really well tonight. That was the guy we hoped to see all season out there.”
On the mound for Abilene, Sanchez went the distance, striking out 11 (a new career high), walked two, allowed four hits, and two earned runs. The Rebels only had one defensive error in the game.
Offensively for the Rebels, Coup led the way in going 4-4 with two runs scored and a RBI. Scott was 1-2 with two runs scored, two walks, a RBI, and a stolen base. Burton went 1-2 with a walk and a RBI. Taylor was 1-3 with a run scored, a walk, and a RBI. Taplin went 1-3 with a run scored, was hit by a pitch, and had two stolen bases, and Sanchez was 1-4 with a run scored and a stolen base.
The nightcap was an entertaining great baseball game. Abilene got off to a fast start in scoring three runs in its first at-bat as Coup stayed hot and hit a one-out single. Taplin followed by being hit by a pitch and Keener drew a walk. Sanchez then hit one up the middle that the second baseman got a glove on, but couldn’t make the play, scoring two runs. Keener moved to third on a passed ball and scored when Scott drew a walk. Scott stole second but was stranded there along with Sanchez at third base. The Blues got a leadoff single, and he stole both second and third. With two outs, Junction City got a double and single, but only scored one. Abilene led 3-1 after one inning.
The Blues had a big second inning as they got a one-out walk, a sacrifice, a double, single, another double, and an Abilene throwing error, to plate three in the inning and take a 4-3 lead. Both teams would go down in order in the third inning.
In the fourth inning the Rebels got a one-out walk from Taylor, followed by a single from Burton, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Short forced Taylor out at third, and then came a strikeout to end any threat. Junction City did get a lone base runner in their half of the inning on an error after a couple of strikeouts, but that would be it.
Abilene grabbed the lead in its half of the fifth inning. McClanahan led off with a single but was put out on a fielder’s choice at second after Coup put the ball in play. Coup scored on a double crushed to the center field wall by Keener. Sanchez followed with a RBI double to left field. The Rebels now led 5-4 after five innings.
After two strikeouts in the sixth inning, Abilene got a single from Short, but another strikeout ended the inning.
Junction City got a lead-off double in their half of the inning and he moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Then came a huge play for the Abilene defense. With the tying run on third, and Abilene’s infield playing in, the next batter hit a ground ball back to the pitcher (Coup). When Coup made the throw to first for the out, the runner at third broke for the plate. Short threw a strike from first to Keener at home plate who applied the tag on the diving runner for the third out to the dismay of the Junction City players and coaches.
The sixth inning just setup more dramatics for the seventh inning. The Rebels went down in order on a strikeout and two fly outs. Junction City again got its speedy leadoff man on after he singled and stole second. He then attempted a steal of third, and on the throw to third, it got away and he scored the tying run. The next batter walked to get the winning run on base. With two outs, the batter then smacked a 1-1 count pitch over the left fielder’s head to drive in the walk-off, winning run. Junction City came back to win 6-5.
“What a great baseball game to be a part of…unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side on the scoreboard,” Hansen said. “This was a good game for us to be a part of. Kaden battled the entire way on the mound and gave us a chance. They hit him, we made some plays defensively, but we also had three errors that cost us. Junction City had played thirty-something games coming into this matchup, and we had played just 16. So we battled against an experienced team with a lot of pitching depth. I believe this was another matchup that will pay-off in the future.”
Offensively for the Rebels, Keener was 1-2 with two runs scored, a walk, and a RBI. Sanchez went 1-3 with three RBI. Coup was 1-4 with two runs scored. McClanahan, Burton, and Short each had a hit. On the mound for Abilene, Coup went the distance, striking out four, walked four, allowed nine hits, and four earned runs.
Abilene, 8-10, was scheduled to play at Clay Center with a make up double-header last night.