Sam Maudsley carried a shutout into the seventh inning and picked up the win to keep alive Service's hopes at earning a state tournament wild card berth after a 5- win over Palmer in a Thursday Night Special broadcast at Mulcahy Stadium.
Mason Bartley had two hits, Coen Niclai scored two runs and closer Jake Rafferty got the final two outs for the Cougars (8-13, 4-5), who moved into fourth place in the Alliance League’s American Division.
Maudsley was marvelous during his 6.1-inning stint, scattering six hits and five walks to put him in position to earn his first complete game of the season. Getting a shutout would have icing on the cake.
It didn’t happen as the right-hander tired in the seventh inning as his pitch count neared triple digits. Palmer’s Bryant Marks walked, Evan Walker singled, Luke Guggenmos tripled and Brayden Methven hit a sharp groundout to pull the Pioneers within 5-3 and chase Maudsley from the game.
Enter Rafferty, who danced around two runners in scoring position to record his first save.
Credit Service for battling against Palmer starter Anthony Jones, who pitched well over his 4.1 innings. The Cougars managed three runs off Jones but just two base hits.
Service leadoff hitter Niclai was the consummate table setter with a double and two walks.
He smacked a two-bagger in the gap to get the first inning started and was moved to second base on a sac bunt before scoring on Owen Hickman’s RBI groundout.
In the third inning, Niclai led off with a walk, stole second base and later scored on an error. That made it 2-0.
Service tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning, thanks in part to Bartley’s double just inside the third-base line off Palmer reliever Keagan Norman. Bartley came around to score after the next batter reached after a two-out error allowed the second run to score, extending the lead to 4-0.
That looked like an insurmountable lead against Maudsley, who stepped up in critical situations many times. He also got a nice 6-4-3 double play to end the third inning, thanks to a nice scoop from first baseman Chris Duke.
Maudsley got out of two-on, one-out jams in each of fourth and fifth innings and earned his fourth strikeout in the sixth inning.
Palmer (10-9, 3-5) just never got it going. Early on, the Pioneers were swinging at first pitches like they had a plane to catch.
Still, they managed to get the leadoff batter on base in each of the first five innings, which is baseball’s recipe for success. But Palmer couldn’t get anything cooking.
Walker was the only one who had it going; the left fielder was 3-for-4 while the rest of the team was 4-for-22 on the night.