Even the baseball gods wanted a game.
Because with torrential rains surrounding the entire county, Brooks Stadium was once again filled with the sounds of America’s pastime on Monday night, and the Kentucky Prospects Nationals edged the American squad 13-12 in six innings.
“Just to see these guys out here in a uniform, warming up and playing … it was special,” noted Prospects President Kip Ellington. “I sent a schedule out to these guys and told them to be here at 4:30 p.m., and I get here at 4:20 p.m. and the whole parking lot is full. These kids were lined up and just super anxious to come out here and play.”
Nobody seemed more amped than Princeton native and Rend Lake Community College star Jase Felker, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs, while fittingly taking the first pitch of the newly-formed one-and-done league for a magnificent ride and a 1-0 lead.
Perhaps he was casting out the frustrations of a pandemic that has purloined this spring and summer of live sports. Perhaps he was just ready for a fastball.
Either way, he wasn’t done with his night.
And things got really fun.
Both teams had hoped to play nine innings or three hours, whichever came first, but instead ran out of pitching, as the Nationals built a snowman in the top of the second inning for a 9-1 advantage, only to see the Americans cut it to an 11-9 deficit courtesy of back-to-back two-RBI doubles from Eric Riffe (Paducah Tilghman, Western Kentucky) and Rook Ellington (McCracken County, College of Charleston) in the bottom of a six-run fourth inning.
The Americans would then tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning behind a three-run rally, 12-12.
“It’s great to come out here and get reps and all of that,” noted Riffe, who was starting at third base for the Hilltoppers as a freshman before the coronavirus occurred. “But it’s awesome for me to get to come back out here and play in front of everyone that’s here in Paducah, and come back and play with everyone I played with in high school. It’s just awesome to come back here and have this opportunity.”
Felker would lead off the top of the sixth with a single, steal second, advance to third on a wild pitch, and then score what would wound up being the winning run after an infield error.
Pending weather, the league expects to play nine more games before a final week of a fantasy draft and best-of-three series, and some early names likely take the lead for top picks. For the Nationals, Felker, Jacob Pennington (3-for-3, two runs, two RBIs) and Jonah Brannon (2-for-2, run, RBI) stroked, while Ellington, Riffe and Dillon Miller (two runs, four walks) were beyond effective.
But the real winner on Monday night was the game of baseball, the city of Paducah and Brooks Stadium, which was crowned with a rainbow in the fourth inning as the sun began to set behind the trees.
“I had three people stop me, and they didn’t have a dog in the fight, and they just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Ellington said. “And I said, ‘For what?’ ‘Thank you for putting this on. We didn’t come out here to see people play marbles. We were so anxious to see some baseball.’ And that’s what makes it fun, too, when you can get a little bit of a fan base going.”
NATIONALS 13, AMERICANS 12
Nationals 181 111 — 13 12 2
Americans 120 630 — 12 5 3
WP: Jackson Fitzgerald, LP: Riley Harris
2B: NAT — Jonah Brannon 2, Trent Shelby, AMER — Rook Ellington 2; 3B: NAT — Jacob Pennington; HR: NAT — Jase Felker (1st, solo)
NAT: Jase Felker 3-4 (3 R, 2 RBI), Trey Hutchinson 1-3 (2 R, 3 RBI), Jacob Pennington 3-3 (2 R, 2 RBI), Jonah Brannon 2-2 (R, RBI), Tyler Wood 1-1 (R, 2 RBI), Coy Burns 1-3 (R, RBI); AMER: Dillon Miller 0-0 (2 R, 4 BB), Bryce Thomas 0-1 (R, 2 RBI), Rook Ellington 2-3 (3 RBI), Will Thompson 0-0 (3 R, 3 BB), Cameron Head 0-3 (2 R, RBI).
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