PARK HILLS — Mineral Area was two outs away from sweeping an important doubleheader Thursday against nearest Region 16 rival Jefferson.
That opportunity was initially made possible by a clutch performance from sophomore shortstop Hunter Leeper and strong pitching from Valle Catholic graduate Wayde Roth in the opener.
Leeper powered his team-leading sixth home run over the left-field wall in the seventh inning off Missouri transfer Brett Thomas, and the Cardinals won 4-2 in walk-off fashion to snap a frustrating 7-game skid.
Logan Bradley finished 2-for-3 and drilled an RBI double as the Cardinals finally secured their 30th victory of the spring. They entered the contest having scored no runs in three previous games.
Roth (7-3) took over the team lead in wins while notching his fifth complete game. He limited a Jefferson lineup filled with left-handed batters to six hits and no walks while striking out one.
Both teams collected two runs in the fourth inning, and each scoring rally included a towering fly ball that dropped safely near a blinded outfielder.
Trent Leimkuehler ripped an RBI double to right-center and Zach Lavy lifted a sacrifice fly to give the Vikings a brief 2-0 lead.
Cardinals catcher Connor Davault hustled to retrieve a potential wild pitch, and Roth covered the plate to tag a sliding runner for a pivotal third out.
Roth retired 11 of his last 12 batters with the assistance of two slick stops by third baseman Carlos Vargas.
A 2-out single by Davault evened the score at 2-2 after Bradley drove in Vargas with a gapper off Thomas, who fanned seven in defeat.
MAC wasted two hits in the second inning, and also lost a man at home in the third. Brad Ridings doubled deep to left-center, but Jefferson executed a perfect relay to retire Cole Kaiser following his late break from second base.
Kaiser walked on a borderline 3-2 offering to begin the MAC seventh, and Leeper’s drive barely carried beyond the wall for a winning 2-run shot.
Game two turned into a 14-inning marathon after being scheduled for nine, and Jefferson eventually erupted for six 2-out runs off Mineral Area reliever Corban Taylor to salvage a 10-4 victory and split the day.
Leadoff man Danny Murphy capped an impressive 5-for-8 showing with a 2-run double in the 14th, and later scored his fourth run on an RBI double from Ryan Rippee as the Vikings totaled 19 hits.
Vargas scored on a wild pitch by Colten Selvey to put the Cardinals ahead 4-3 in the sixth, and three scoreless innings of relief from lefty Alex Piontek brought them closer to another triumph.
But Taylor (0-2) was greeted in the ninth by a leadoff double to left from Murphy, who then scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
MAC nearly pulled through in the home half after Lance Fields hammered a leadoff double over the center fielder. An intentional walk to Leeper put men at the corners with one out.
Jefferson reliever Logan Hershenow entered into a difficult jam, but induced a weak ground ball to the mound before Vargas lined sharply to left.
Hershenow allowed a leadoff hit to Bradley in the 10th before mowing down the next 13 MAC batters and earning the win.
Vikings shortstop Jevon Jacobs went 3-for-5 and atoned for a gaffe after rounding third base too far to become the first out of the 13th inning.
Jacobs made a dazzling play in the hole to prevent a leadoff hit in the MAC 12th, then delivered a clutch 2-run single in the 14th.
The winning outburst started with a 1-out single from pinch-hitter Zack Faulkner. Jackson Luce’ followed with a single and Lavy was intentionally passed to load the bases.
A potential sacrifice fly dissolved when the Vikings refused to test Kaiser’s arm in straight-away right field, but Jacobs punched a ground ball through the left side to break the lasting deadlock.
Mineral Area surged ahead 3-1 in the fourth on a pair of solo home runs by Clayton Gibbons and Brad Matson.
Doubles by Murphy and Leimkuehler brought Jefferson even in the fifth after Jacobs pushed a bunt single past the mound.
Fields paced the Cardinals by going 3-for-7, including an RBI single in the third inning. Davault, Ridings and Bradley added two hits each for MAC while catcher Mauricio Junco caught two runners stealing.
Both starting pitchers were done after five innings. Cardinals sophomore Jeff King allowed six hits while Vikings hurler Jake Busiek struck out eight.
Jefferson (31-15) will host Mineral Area (30-17) on Saturday to complete the 4-game series and finalize the Region 16 regular season.
Jefferson 000 200 0 - 2 6 1
Mineral Area 000 200 2 - 4 8 0
W - Wayde Roth 7ip 2r 2er 6h 1k 0bb.
L - Brett Thomas 6 2/3ip 4r 4er 8h 5k 2bb.
Jefferson - Ryan Rippee 2-3, Danny Murphy 1-3, Brett Peel 1-3, Matt Feldt 1-3, Trent Leimkuehler 1-3. 2b - Leimkuehler.
Mineral Area - Logan Bradley 2-3, Cole Kaiser 1-2, Connor Davault 1-3, Brad Ridings 1-3, Carlos Vargas 1-3, Clayton Gibbons 1-3, Hunter Leeper 1-4. 2b - Ridings, Bradley. HR - Leeper (6).
Jefferson 100 020 001 000 06 - 10 19 1
Mineral Area 001 201 000 000 00 - 4 11 3
W - Logan Hershenow 5 2/3ip 0r 0er 2h 3k 0bb.
L - Corban Taylor 6ip 7r 6er 10h 4k 2bb.
Jefferson - Danny Murphy 5-8, Jevon Jacobs 3-5, Zach Lavy 2-5, Jackson Luce’ 2-6, Ryan Rippee 2-8, Zack Faulkner 1-1, Todd Hinkley 1-3, Matt Feldt 1-4, Brett Peel 1-7, Trent Leimkuehler 1-8. 2b - Murphy 3, Rippee 2, Leimkuehler.
Mineral Area - Lance Fields 3-7, Connor Davault 2-3, Logan Bradley 2-5, Brad Ridings 2-6, Brad Matson 1-6, Clayton Gibbons 1-7. 2b - Fields 2. HR - Matson (4), Gibbons (2).