De Soto survives a pair of close calls
There's no other word for it.
De Soto coach Steve Deghand couldn't find one.
Taylor Burnett himself couldn't find one.
With the tying run on second, no hope of help from any sort of bullpen and nary an ounce of momentum, Burnett was simply gutsy in striking out Central Heights' final two batters.
The Wildcats (4-1) narrowly avoided a pair of losses to the Vikings Tuesday, knocking the home team down in extra innings, 9-4, in the first game, and holding off a late Central Heights rally in the second game, 5-4.
"Gutsy is right," Deghand said of Burnett's complete-game effort and his seventh-inning strikeouts. "We pretty much used our staff up in that first game and we have two more ballgames this week, so we really needed a lot of innings out of Taylor."
The final two outs of the night wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic had it not been for how the 76 before them happened.
De Soto scored four runs in the first three innings of the opening game against the Vikings and held a comfortable 4-2 lead into the fifth inning.
Tyler Farmer had to leave with arm soreness and a trio of Wildcat relievers couldn't prevent Central Heights from scoring the two runs necessary to tie.
None of the Cats could do much offensively to prevent the tie either.
After picking up five hits in the first three innings, De Soto had just one more in the remaining four innings of regulation. Despite placing multiple runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings, De Soto wasn't able to find a big bat when it needed one the most.
"I was talking during the seventh inning saying 'We don't deserve to win,'" Deghand said. "To that point, they had out hit us. Our average with runners in scoring position was horrible."
Finally the Cats strung together some hits, blowing the game open in the ninth.
Tyler Farmer led the inning off with a single into left and Burnett helped him score with a hard hit ball to the shortstop.
Aaron Hansen then blasted a double into left field scoring Burnett. De Soto went on to score five runs in the inning, more than doubling its production from the entire game.
But, while De Soto was more than happy to escape with the narrow victory, it came at a price. Four Wildcats pitched in the affair, leaving only Burnett rested and ready to go.
"Coach pulled me aside before the game and said it would have to be a gutsy performance by me," Burnett said.
It didn't appear as if much stamina would be required through the first part of the game.
De Soto again opened up a quick lead, this time scoring two in the first and one in the third.
Central Heights pulled within one, 3-2, in the third. De Soto widened the gap again with another run, but an error helped one Viking score in the sixth and only a play at the plate and a deep flyball hit out to centerfielder Jake Bosnak kept the Central Heights a run down.
"They were starting to hit me," Burnett said. "My curveball wasn't really working tonight, so I was relying on my fastball and they started to catch up to it."
The curveball would come back, however.
Still clinging to the one-run lead in the seventh, Burnett gave up a hard-hit single into centerfield before striking out the inning's second out looking and causing the crucial third out to swing widely above a cutting curveball.
"My teammates just helped me out," Burnett said. "Catcher Dustin Grimes did a great job calling pitches for me. I just have the most confidence in that kid.
"We kind of expected to come in and get them, but they're a tough team. We didn't come in prepared for them, but we stuck it out and got the win."