WELLMAN — Fairfield High School baseball coach Josh Allison pulled the orange and black string out of his back pocket, another knot tied on the string to represent a win.
“When you don’t have a lot of knots, it’s easier to pull it out of guys’ hands,” he said. “This means a lot of guys are pulling in the same direction.”
The 10th knot was one of the toughest of the season, as the Trojans scored all their runs in the final three innings of a 6-4 nonconference win over Mid-Prairie Tuesday at Paul N. Bailey Field.
A two-run single by Austin Simpson put the Trojans ahead in the fifth, then four straight one-out walks in the seventh provided the margin of victory.
The Trojans (10-3) had been on a power-hitting binge of late, and hit 15 home runs coming into the game. However, in a game with not a lot of hard contact, Fairfield had to settle for other ways to score runs. They resorted to patience at the plate.
“Before tonight, I didn’t know if we could win a game where we had to take walks to win. I didn’t know if we had the patience,” he said. “But I think it comes with a lot of experience. We have a lot of seniors, and these are the kinds of games we need.”
The Trojans were coming off a difficult split against Washington the previous night, as they blew a seventh-inning lead in the second game. Mid-Priairie, usually one of the better teams in Class 2A, seemed prime to hand the Trojans another defeat.
One inning into the game, Allison began the lineup gymnastics with his team. He switched out both pitcher Carter Ferrell and catcher Kosta Papazogolou because “each one came down with a sore arm. They were fine before the game started.”
Reliever Elan Ledger provided the stability the Trojans needed. He tossed five innings of relief to keep Fairfield in the game, though they fell behind 3-0 in the fourth on a solo home run by Aidan Rath.
However, Fairfield started to turn the corner in the fifth. Papazogolou drew a bases-loaded walk, then Austin Simpson’s hard two-run single against Rath tied the game at three. Fairfield then took the lead on a ground out by Austin Waugh.
After the Golden Hawks tied the game in the sixth on a wild pitch, the Trojans put together one last rally as Rath struggled to throw strikes. He walked Ferrell, Papazogolou, Simpson and Waugh, with Waugh’s bringing in Ferrell with the go-ahead run. Papazogolou then slid head-first into the plate on a wild pitch for the final margin of victory.
Cooper Drish closed out the game in the seventh despite allowing a base runner.
“I can’t say enough about Elan tonight. That was a very tough situation to come into after the starter going just one inning, but he was mentally prepared for it,” Allison said. “This was a game I told my coaches, after the first inning, that we were going to have to coach our butts off. Everyone stayed focused.”
Allison sensed his team was flat to start the game, as they didn’t get many good swings against Mid-Prairie starter Ashton Bush, who worked slowly between pitches.
“I think we were flat after what happened last night, but I remember in our substate game last year, Solon’s pitcher worked slowly, so that was something we could learn from as far as making adjustments,” Allison said. “When they brought (Rath) in, we had some guys who were ready to put their best swings on the ball.”
Fairfield plays Davis County at Busch Stadium in St. Louis at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Chad Drury can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury