Truman nearly ends losing skid but falls to Oak Park

Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Truman starting pitcher Dawson Torpey throws to an Oak Park batter in Tuesday's game at Oak Park. Truman fell behind 4-0 but tied it and took a 5-4 lead only for Oak Park to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to hand the Patriots a 6-5 loss.

Truman was three outs away from ending a losing streak.

The Patriots only got two outs and now have lost six in a row as Oak Park scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 6-5 win in day two of the Northland Tournament.

“Pitching hasn’t been the issue,” Truman coach Corey Lathrom said. “It’s been the lack of timely hitting and not making the defensive play when we need to. We will get there. I know they (Oak Park) have a young team and they have had their struggles. Sometimes a game like this builds confidence. We will hang in there and learn from it.”

Truman (5-7) took its first lead in the top of the seventh but made an error to open the bottom of the seventh.

That error allowed Gabe Todenhausen to reach and then an errant pickoff attempt went up the right field line and he scooted over to third base.

Austin Dahlberg was hit by a pitch and the Northmen (5-9) had runners on the corner.

That led to a pitching change and Kayne Braxton came in relief of Noah Brunk, who had up to that point pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Karl Knaak drew a walk to load the bases but Braxton then got a timely strikeout. Aiden Hinkle hit a fly ball to left field for the second out of the inning but a run scored to tie it at 5. The two other base runners moved up on the throw home.

The game ended four pitches later, a decision Lathrom looked back on after the game.

Kael Davis worked a 3-0 count and the fourth went to the backstop. Courtesy runner Carter Poole slid in safely to end it.

“We missed to the wrong part of the zone on that 3-0,” Lathrom said of the situation. “I tried telling (Kayne) to miss low. I had contemplated walking that runner again when it went 3-0 and looking back, I definitely should’ve. I should’ve taken it out of his hands and I should’ve done the thinking for him and given ourselves more options on a force out.”

The tough ending spoiled Truman’s five-run surge that helped the Patriots overcome an early 4-0 deficit after three innings.

Truman scored four in the fourth and then took its first lead in the top of the seventh. The catalyst both innings was senior Sam Scott.

He opened the fourth with a single and scored on a one-out double to right field by Brady Ruks-Bond. Oak Park got the second out but Randy Ayala drew a walk and Dane Blankenship singled to load the bases.

Toby Bingham singled up the middle to bring home two runners. Ben Kerby followed with a single to tie it 4-4.

Scott then opened the seventh with a bizarre play. With one out, Scott hit a popup that fell in front of first base. After realizing it was in play, he reached safely despite objections from Oak Park he ran out of the baseline. A throwing error on a pickoff moved Scott up to second.

Ruks-Bond hit another double, which scored Scott to give Truman its first and only lead. The sophomore was left stranded there.

“Crazy play to start (the seventh) with Sam Scott reaching on the popup that was eight inches from the plate,” Lathrom said. “Brady Ruks came up with a big at-bat; he’s struggled in a few of those situations. It was good to see the young kid come through. He does a nice job of driving the ball the other way. He likes to turn on it like he was able to that time.”

Scott finished 3-for-4, while Ruks-Bond had two hits.

Truman has two games left in the Northland Tournament, facing Liberty and then North Kansas City. Then a doubleheader on Saturday against Van Horn and William Chrisman. This is part of a stretch of 21 games in 17 days for Truman.