PARK HILLS – The Mineral Area baseball team earned a crucial four-game sweep against Three Rivers with hopes of repeating as MCCAC champions.
The most bizarre outcome occurred in game one of a doubleheader Saturday at Hal Loughary Field, as the Cardinals prevailed 6-5 when Antoine Tremblay touched home plate on a balk call in the 11th inning.
Tremblay, who was 2-for-4 with three runs scored, stood at third base just moments after right fielder Brett Harris threw out pinch-runner Brady Renneberg at home on a single by catcher Jose Ramirez.
Three Rivers reliever Briar Fischer began his pitching motion while facing Justin Carinci with two outs when the field umpire detected an issue and brought an abrupt end to the action.
The warm opener lasted 3 hours, 34 minutes in duration, and perhaps could have concluded in about half of that time if not for a blown lead by the Cardinals in the seventh inning.
Starting left-hander Gavin Oswald got within two outs of a complete game, and carried a one-hitter through 6 1/3 innings while striking out four and maintaining a 3-1 lead.
But his control slipped during three consecutive one-out walks, and reliever Dylan Farley struggled in a brief stint after inheriting the bases loaded.
Ramirez was crossed up on a pitch to the backstop that brought in one run, and Harris followed with a two-RBI double to the left-center alley that gave the Raiders a sudden 4-3 advantage.
Kaleb Lemos (1-0) prevented further damage, thanks to a key second out when shortstop Rafael Garcia fired home, and preceded to work the last 4 2/3 innings with five strikeouts for the eventual win.
Mineral Area pulled even on a sacrifice fly from Ramirez in the home half of the seventh. Tremblay and Cade Holmes greeted pitcher Jorden Eaton with back-to-back singles, but Holmes was caught trying to take second as the trailing runner on his hit.
The Raiders regained a 5-4 lead when Cade Cancilla doubled and scored on an infield hit by Brycen Luna that included an excellent backhand stop by third baseman Liam Bushey with no play.
But a costly error aided MAC during its half of the eighth after Dee Triplett was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Pinch-runner Karter Kekec raced home on a wild pitch by Kailen Hamson.
Fischer retired his first six batters faced as the contest returned to a more controlled tone, but walked both Ruendrick Piternella and Tremblay to begin the 11th frame.
Carinci and Bushey each provided two singles for the Cardinals, who grabbed a 3-1 lead on another extremely windy day when Stefan Turino dropped a fly ball and two runs scored in the third.
That play marked the second error of the inning after Triplett and Bushey started it with singles. All three runs charged to Raiders starter Michael White through six frames were unearned.
Three Rivers grabbed a 1-0 lead following hits by Luna and Logan McIntyre in the second. Oswald regrouped to retire the next 11 batters in a row, and was helped in the sixth when Garcia ranged up the middle and flipped against his own momentum to Carinci for a dazzling double play.
Cardinals left fielder Derek Williams entered the weekend leading all of NJCAA Division I with 20 home runs, but could not increase that total. The relentless breeze pushed a roughly 400-foot drive foul in the eighth inning, leading to a third straight strikeout.
Mineral Area received a solid outing on the mound from right-hander Aaron Evers, and triumphed 14-5 in the series finale on Saturday after tallying 12 unanswered runs.
Bushey paced the offense by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored, and cracked an opposite-field, two-run home run in the second inning.
Triplett, Piternella and Tremblay also crossed the plate three times apiece, and Farmington graduate Kael Krause provided the go-ahead, two-RBI single during a six-run surge in the fourth inning.
Evers (3-4) struck out seven and walked four through six innings, allowing all three hits against him when the Raiders jumped ahead 5-2 with four unearned runs in the fourth.
Charlie Parker and Harris connected for doubles, and lead-off man Hunter Gray capped the rally by the visitors with a two-out, two-run single.
Gray used his speed to open the scoring. He tagged up from first on a fly ball to right, then stole third and drew a wild throw from Krause to score easily in the first inning.
Mineral Area (25-15, 16-6) soon seized command, however, by sending 11 batters to the dish and ultimately chasing starter Austin Gast in the fourth.
Singles from Williams and Bushey sandwiched a walk to Triplett before Piternella and Tremblay were each plunked with the bases loaded. Krause pulled his timely single down the third-base line against Will Hathcoate, the first of four relievers employed by Three Rivers.
Williams notched his second hit of the inning after Garcia singled. Bushey and Piternella scored on the same wild pitch before Lemos lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 11-5 in the fifth.
Tremblay reached base for the third time in game two with an RBI single, and Carinci drove in two on a bloop toward the right-field line in the sixth.
Hunter Bassin pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts for Mineral Area.
North County graduate Kolten Poorman finished hitless for Three Rivers (25-25, 10-13), which has also been swept in four-game region sets by Jefferson and Crowder.
The series began Friday in Poplar Bluff with a superb pitching performance, as Brian Strange and Pierce Hartmann combined efforts in a 9-0 shutout by the Cardinals.
Holmes led off the sixth inning with a home run, and equaled Carinci, Triplett and Piternella with two hits apiece in the victory.
The contest was scoreless until the fourth inning when MAC produced three runs off Raiders hurler Noah Burkey, who had retired his first nine batters in succession.
Carinci doubled and stole third ahead of an error and ensuing singles from Triplett and Piternella, whose two-RBI single in the fifth made it 6-0.
Strange (6-2) scattered four hits while striking out three over five innings. He worked around a one-out double in the first by Cancilla, who was cut down at home by Garcia on an attempted double steal in the third.
Hartmann followed with two scoreless frames, and Tremblay smacked a two-run double off reliever Zach Haygood in the seventh for Mineral Area.
The Cardinals were bolstered in game two Friday by seven players with multiple hits, and edged Three Rivers 9-7 after erupting for seven runs in the sixth inning.
Triplett and Piternella homered during the pivotal rally with a two-run single from Williams also part of the mix. Bushey, Carinci, Garcia and Tremblay matched their two hits.
Three Rivers grabbed a 4-1 lead in the fifth when Poorman capped a series of four consecutive two-out hits with a two-RBI double, but losing reliever Tyson Dias could not preserve it.
Russell Derbyshire (3-1) worked the first 6 1/3 innings, and allowed five runs, four earned, on nine hits while striking out four and walking none. The infielders behind him turned two double plays.
Bushey singled and scored following three straight free passes in the top of the eighth for a 9-5 spread. Holmes reached base four times on a double and three walks.
McIntyre ripped a two-run homer against Carter Rees in the home half of the eighth, and Cancilla netted a team-high three hits with two RBI for Three Rivers.
Martijn Schoonderwoerd pitched a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.
MAC can clinch the No. 2 seed for the Region 16 playoffs by splitting a make-up home doubleheader Wednesday against State Fair. Conference games at East Central have been rescheduled for Friday.