FARMINGTON — The ability to overcome numerous moments of adversity has driven the Farmington Firebirds throughout their current winning streak, which now stands at seven games.
That trend continued Thursday night, as the hottest team in the KITTY League trailed on three occasions and committed five defensive errors, but still managed to complete a three-game series sweep of the Sikeston Bulls with an exciting 6-5 victory.
Farmington (14-12) scored the decisive tally in the ninth inning, providing a thrilling finish for the enthusiastic home crowd. Tony Spencer drew a leadoff walk, and raced to third on a subsequent single by Tyler Pittman. The Bulls then elected to walk Lucas Hulsey intentionally to load the bases.
Sikeston reliever Ryan Anderson got the result he needed when Zak Blemker hit a slow roller to second base, but a rushed throw home skipped past the catcher, igniting the celebration as Spencer touched home plate.
The Firebirds tied the game at 5-5 when Austin Swain hustled out an infield single to score Eric McDaniel in the sixth inning. Swain, who entered the contest with the team-lead in runs scored, collected his first RBI of the season on the play.
Danny Scanio (1-3) held down the Bulls with six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win in his first appearance since a 5-4 loss in Tennessee on June 15. Blake Jones took a no-decision for the Firebirds after giving up five runs on eight hits, while fanning three and walking five.
Sikeston (8-19) put four consecutive batters on base to begin the contest, but a botched squeeze play limited the Bulls to just one run on a RBI single from Adam Darby.
Farmington drew even in the bottom of the first, as Pittman lined a double to the opposite field with two outs, and scored when Hulsey smashed a RBI single back through the middle.
Two Firebird miscues in the third inning helped Sikeston surge ahead 3-1 on a Sean Bard RBI single, but an inning-ending double play in the fourth ended another threat sparked by two fielding errors. The Firebirds then rallied for three runs in the fifth to grab their first lead of the night.
Swain smacked a leadoff double down the line in left, and Spencer bunted for a single. Pittman received a break when a foul ball was dropped on a tough play near the dugout, and capitalized on it with a tying two-run triple to the wall in right-center field.
Pittman raised his team-high RBI total to 28, and went 3-for-5 to increase his batting average to .363. He scored his second run of the night on a RBI single by Blemker, giving the Firebirds a 4-3 advantage.
J.D. Glenn doubled with one out in the Sikeston sixth to spark an instant comeback response. Tyler Martin tied the score with a RBI infield hit, and Darby delivered a clutch go-ahead single to left with two outs.
Darby and Bo Whitaker were each 3-for-5 with a run scored, and Martin went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks to lead the Bulls. Sikeston hurler Justin Rogers worked seven innings with five strikeouts and 11 hits allowed.
Ryan Becker continued his offensive excellence in the series by going 3-for-4 for the Firebirds. Spencer ran his current hitting streak to eight games by finishing 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored, while Swain was 2-for-5.
Four teams are now separated by just three games in the KITTY League pennant race, as first-place Owensboro fell 6-2 at Union City on Thursday.
The Firebirds, who are now three games back, have a golden opportunity to gain more ground on the league leaders this weekend, as the Oilers come to town for a monumental three-game set that begins tonight at 7 p.m.
Sikeston 102 002 000 – 5 12 1
Farmington 100 031 001 – 6 13 5
WP – Scanio 3 2/3i 0r 4h 6k 0bb.
LP – Anderson 1i 1r 2h 0k 2bb.
Sikeston – Whitaker 3, Darby 3, Martin 2, Bard, Mulvaney, Wahl, Glenn. 2b – Glenn.
Farmington – Becker 3, Pittman 3, Swain 2, Spencer 2, Hulsey, Blemker, McDaniel. 2b – Pittman, Swain. 3b – Pittman.