ST. LOUIS — Three Rivers baseball sealed its first 20-win season since 2015 on Friday.
In a Region XVI doubleheader against St. Louis Community College, the Raiders erased a four-run deficit in the seventh inning of game two and took the lead in the ninth inning, winning 8-6 to split the first two games of a four-game series. Three Rivers dropped game one, 7-4.
Trailing 6-2 in the top of the seventh, Roberto Mejia swung on a 2-1 pitch and hit a home run to start the comeback. Mejia went 2 for 5 with an RBI and two runs scored in game two. With two on and two out, Beau Burson connected on a game-tying home run to even the score at 7 apiece.
The Archers put a man on third and hit a ground rule double, threatening to take the lead again in the eighth, but a fly ball to left field stranded the go-ahead run.
With two out in the top of the ninth, Burson again came through in the clutch. With Mejia and Mason Sellers on third, Burson hit a two-RBI single for the go-ahead runs, giving the Raiders their first lead since the fifth inning. Burson had a solid day at the plate, finishing 3 of 4 with five RBIs and a run scored.
"Beau stepped up big time with his bat with five RBIs," Three Rivers coach Stacey Burkey said. "He showed a lot of poise in the batter's box."
St. Louis (11-18, 8-13 Region XVI) had one on with one out, but Nicholas DeBeer hit a grounder right to Winston Welter at shortstop for a double play, making the Raiders a 20-win team for the first time in four years.
"Our guys showed a lot of persistence and toughness in the come-from-behind win in game two after dropping a hard-fought first game," Burkey said.
Austin Williams pitched a complete game in the back end of the doubleheader. He allowed 11 hits and six earned runs, striking out 12, one shy of his season high. Per nine innings this season, Williams averages 12.6 strikeouts.
"Austin was a bulldog for us that second game, striking out 12 and going the distance in the nine-inning game," Burkey said. "After giving up a one-out hit in the ninth, I took a mound visit to give him a break, hoping he had enough left to get a ground ball. And that's exactly what he did, just like we drew it up.
Game one was the opposite story. The Raiders (20-18-1, 8-13 Region XVI) jumped out to an early lead before the Archers took the lead and held on for the rest of the game. Three Rivers scored two runs in the top of the first but saw its lead vanish with two runs from St. Louis in the second. The Archers scored five unanswered runs to take control of the game, adding two more in the sixth for some insurance.
John Rodriguez tallied three of the team's six hits on four at-bats, scoring two runs. Reece Reading hit his fifth home run of the season in the first inning to give the Raiders their early lead. He's now one behind Nick Fakouri's six for the team-high. Reading now has 48 RBIs, which leads the team.
River Hunt got the start for the Raiders in game one. He threw four innings and finished with two hits, three earned runs and six walks allowed, and he struck out four. A.J. Calhoon finished the game, going two innings and giving up four hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts.
The series was originally supposed to be home and home, but the Archers had trouble finding transportation to Poplar Bluff with bad weather in the forecast, so both days will be played in St. Louis.
The two teams will finish the series with another doubleheader, starting at noon on Saturday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic