Leo Garcia is late at the plate more often than not. The junior knew he couldn’t afford to do that if he got a chance to hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. When coach Grant Pippert sent Garcia to the batting cage midway through game one of Thursday’s doubleheader against Bettendorf, he practiced making contact with the ball early.
It paid off for Garcia, as he sliced a pitch down the left field line that dropped fair and scored Dalton Logel to give the Muskies a 2-1 walk-off win over the Bulldogs.
“I saw the ball down so I knew if I went down on it, it was going to be a ground ball,” Garcia said. “I decided to swing up on it and I happened to keep it fair.”
Game two was a back and forth affair between the Mississippi Athletic Conference rivals, but one that ultimately saw Bettendorf come out on top 6-5 over Muscatine. Thursday’s split at Tom Bruner field marked Muscatine’s third split in MAC play.
Muscatine (6-6, 3-5 MAC) has already matched last season’s win total.
“Last year the dugout was always dead,” Garcia said. “Nobody seemed to want to be there. This year we’ve shown in the offseason we’re a lot more dedicated, we try a lot more and focus on the little things.”
The Muskies showed the ability to stay positive in both games, as they didn’t flinch either time the Bulldogs (3-10 3-5 MAC) took a lead.
Andrew Kramer sparked the Bulldogs in the fourth inning of the opener with a triple down the right field line. The Bettendorf junior scored on an error but the Bulldogs stranded two runners to end the inning. The Muskies responded in the next half inning as Tomas LoBianco recorded one of his three hits on the night to drive in Bryce Owen and tie the game 1-1.
Zach Eversmeyer held the Bettendorf offense in check, as the junior pitcher struck out five and allowed just one run.
“We know what we’re going to get out of Zach,” Pippert said. “he’s going to throw strikes and compete. Is he the most physically gifted? Probably not, but he’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.”
The teams stayed knotted at 1-1 until Garcia broke the tie with his walk-off. The Muskies carried that energy into the nightcap, but errors helped dig them a 5-2 hole. With the score tied 2-2 entering the fifth inning, pitcher Dalton Logel surrendered a RBI single to Andrew Kramer. The Bulldogs scored two more runs on an error at second base by Tyler Owen.
It was the fourth error of the game, all coming from the second base spot where Dalton Logel occupied in game one before pitching game two. The first three came from Ricardo Pena at that spot.
Still, the Muskies battled back, as Drew Logel – who didn’t play in the field due to a swollen knee – belted his third home run of the season over the left field wall. The three-run shot tied the game 5-5.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Pippert said of the fight his team displayed to battle back in the nightcap. “Drew can change a game with one swing of the bat.”
However, the Muskies eventually faltered in the sixth inning, as Adams drilled a RBI double for the Bulldogs, which proved to be the winning run.