Eighth inning surge propels Brigade

JC's Mac McCroskey (left) and Carson Sader take the field Monday night against the Liberty Monarchs.

Monday was a scheduled off-day for Junction City Brigade catcher Dylan Thurber. But in the seventh inning, his number was called to enter the game and catch for new pitcher Drew Repp. And when he got to the plate, Thurber made his mark on the game. Thurber utilized his at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning to break the game open with a two-RBI base hit to put JC up 6-3 en route to a victory against the Liberty Monarchs. 

“I just felt like, at that point in the game, he’s been swinging good for us so I wanted to get him in there,” JC coach Derek Francis said. “He followed Drew Repp into the game when he went in. He hit in the seventh inning and got a hit for us, but we couldn’t do anything after that. And that, he came up again and got a big hit in the bottom of the eighth. He’s a guy that’s come up with a lot of big hits for us this summer.”

A big hit was all the Brigade needed in a game where timely hits were hard to come by. Earlier in the game, they loaded the bases with nobody out and hit into a wild triple-play. Then later on, with the bases loaded and one out, they came away empty handed. So, Thurber’s hit was much needed for a team that needed to capitalize on its chances. 

Pitcher Jayton Haggard started the game for the Brigade, but only lasted three innings. He issued four walks, but just one run. The bullpen was relied on heavily to help carve out the victory, with four pitchers being used collectively. Francis doesn’t mind diving deep into his bullpen because of the trust he has in all of his arms. 

“When we’re competitive in the zone, we give ourselves a legit chance no matter who it is coming out of the bullpen,” Francis said. “I feel comfortable with all of the guys coming out. Jayton (Haggard) wasn’t terrible; he went three innings and his pitch count was at 75. He wasn’t overly efficient. After that, I knew it would probably be a bullpen day because Jayton’s not a guy that has the stamina to go six, seven, eight innings.”

Jacob Gilbert, Bryce Hestand and Drew Repp took the reigns from Haggard in the fourth inning, each pitching a couple innings to finish out the ball game. They combined to surrender only two runs, keeping the Monarchs offense in check. Repp pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to close out the game.

It was the 20th victory of the season for the Brigade, a number that snuck up on Francis. The team will look to continue its success Tuesday against the Monarchs once again.

“We didn’t play overly great tonight, but we’ve won a lot of baseball games this summer,” Francis said. “You’re not going to have your game every night and coming off an off-day, you never know how guys are going to perform. We had a lot of guys on base tonight and just didn’t capitalize until the bottom of the eighth inning. We try to win every time we go out and we won the majority of the games, so it feels good.”

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