HILLSBORO, Mo. — Blunders on the base paths spoiled potential go-ahead rallies in three consecutive innings, and the Mineral Area baseball team failed to salvage at least a doubleheader split Sunday at Jefferson.
Zach Lavy lined a bases-loaded RBI single off reliever Alex Piontek in the ninth inning, capping a strong 3-for-5 effort at the plate, and the Vikings prevailed 4-3 in an opener scheduled for seven frames.
A loudly disputed call diminished a chance for the Cardinals to snap a 3-3 deadlock in the seventh, all while an inconsistent strike zone drew criticism from both dugouts.
Connor Davault advanced Logan Bradley to third base on a hit-and-run single with one out against Jefferson starter Kyle Bouman.
Davault was called out when diving back to first base, although several Cardinals argued that a sweeping tag clearly missed the MAC catcher.
Mineral Area threatened again in the eighth, but Brad Ridings rounded second too far on Hunter Leeper’s infield hit.
Vikings reliever Colten Selvey picked off Carlos Vargas following a single in the ninth, and earned the win after posting his second scoreless inning.
Piontek allowed four singles in the bottom of the ninth, and received a break when Davault caught a man stealing in a rundown.
Logan Bone doubled on the next pitch, and eventually scored the decisive run on Lavy’s bullet to left-center after Piontek fanned previous batter Brett Peel on three pitches for the second out.
Jefferson converted two defensive miscues into three runs during the third inning. MAC starter Devin Hampton allowed a lead-off walk and slipped while attempting to field an ensuing sacrifice bunt.
Lavy ripped a 2-run double with first base open, and scored an insurance run on an error for a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals could not generate a hit through four innings against Bouman, but were sparked by doubles by Clayton Gibbons and Bradley in the fifth.
Brad Matson trimmed the deficit to 3-2 with an RBI single to shallow left-center, and crossed with the tying run on an errant pickoff throw after a Lance Fields single made a tricky hop over the third baseman.
Hampton notched five strikeouts while allowing three walks and three hits. He was able to strand runners at the corners in the Jefferson seventh.
The Vikings captured a third victory in the 4-game weekend series later on Sunday, riding a two offensive outbursts to a 15-3 blowout.
Danny Murphy stroked RBI triples in the first and second innings, and Lavy collected a pair of RBI doubles as Jefferson compiled 14 hits. Brad Lombard allowed two runs in four innings for the win.
Vargas departed for MAC after yielding seven runs in the opening frame. Jefferson (33-15) tacked on six unearned against Trey Bazzell in the second after a fly ball was dropped with two outs.
Victor Coronado singled and scored for the Cardinals in the fourth, and also made a tremendous backhand play after taking over at shortstop.
Tylor McNeil singled to load the bases in the Mineral Area fourth, and Bradley lifted a sacrifice fly after Tanner Ward scored on a passed ball.
Mineral Area (30-19) finished the Region 16 schedule with a 15-13 record and tied with St. Louis for fourth place. Maple Woods currently sits at 14-10 and could place third by splitting with Three Rivers this weekend.
The Cardinals suffered their 10th loss in 11 games, and will complete the regular season Tuesday by hosting Wabash Valley.