MOKANE -- There were ups and downs and twists and turns throughout, but South Callaway baseball found a way to stay in the winning column.
After the game was moved to South Callaway due to Jamestown's field conditions, the South Callaway Bulldogs used their home-field advantage to win 7-6 against the Jamestown Eagles on a walk-off drop third strike Tuesday.
Before extras, here's what happened in a roller coaster of a game: Bulldogs starter JT Thomas threw a perfect game for 3 2/3 innings, Jamestown scored six runs in the fifth to take a 6-3 lead and South Callaway scored one in the sixth before tacking on two in the seventh to tie it at 6.
The Eagles were at the plate to start extra innings, and they were facing Bulldogs reliever Chase Mealy who sent the Eagles down 1-2-3 while striking out two in the seventh -- his first inning pitching.
Mealy notched his third straight strikeout to start extras, but Jamestown's Connor Gorman reached first on a drop third strike. However, Gorman couldn't get into scoring position, as the Bulldogs forced him out on a fielder's choice during the next at-bat.
Following that, Mealy retired the next two hitters, striking out the last one for the final out of the frame.
Like Jamestown, South Callaway only had one runner reach on a non-fielder's choice play.
That man was Ryan Lepper, who Eagles pitcher Landen Allen walked on three pitches to start the Bulldogs' half of the inning.
Leadoff walks can hurt any team, especially when the player who received the free pass -- Lepper -- is an all-district/all-conference basketball player and South Callaway coach Heath Lepper's son.
The Bulldogs' Lepper used his basketball hustling ability to steal second before getting to third on Owen Rees's flyout to right field, and he wasn't done yet.
South Callaway's Ethan Edwards came to the plate for the third at-bat of the frame and went down on drop third strike. But the play didn't end there -- Lepper sprinted home as Jamestown's catcher made the wrong decision to throw to first and get Edwards out while a basketball shooting guard was 90 feet from home.
Lepper reached home safely, warming up South Callaway's team/fans while freezing Jamestowns's more than they already were.
"Anytime you get a win after you're down by three is always a good thing," South Callaway coach Lepper said. "They battled back and showed their resiliency and never gave up. You could hear them cheering each other on and fighting for every pitch in every at-bat, so that part we love.
"Now, putting ourselves in that situation. Obviously, we're not real excited about the things that transpired to put us down by three runs. But it's early in the season, it's 30 degrees outside, and we'd much rather walk away with a win than a loss. So in that respect, it's a good day."
While Lepper was South Callaway's hero on the offensive side, Mealy was on the mound. Mealy was credited with the victory after pitching two innings and allowing no runs on no hits or walks while striking out four.
Except for one inning, all three of the Bulldogs' pitchers had great outings. South Callaway's pitchers allowed seven hits and three walks to Jamestown's nine hits and seven walks.
Getting the starting nod for South Callaway was Thomas. The senior had a terrific start to his outing, striking out seven hitters while allowing no hits or walks in his first three innings.
Thomas nearly extended his 1-2-3 streak to four innings, but the Eagles' Tate Duncan ended his perfect game by singling to left field. After that at-bat, the Bulldogs got the next batter out on a pop-out to first.
Up 3-0 heading into the game-changing fifth, South Callaway was cruising along to that point.
The tide turned, though, as Jamestown scored six runs on five hits, two walks and two errors in the fifth.
Making that stat line crazier than it already looked, the Eagles scored all six of their runs with two outs. Jamestown scored its first two runs on a two-RBI single, followed it up with an RBI double down the right-field line, added one on a throwing error to first and plated the final on another error.
That was Thomas's final inning. In five innings of work, Thomas allowed six earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out 10.
"JT showed what he's capable of, right?" Lepper said. "He filled the zone up. Secondary pitches was working pretty good, and he made big pitches when he needed to.
"So there for a while, he was cruising. But a lot of times with this time of the year, you get to a point where whether it's fatigue or could be the weather a little bit. And we didn't get the last inning like we wanted, but it's alright. There's a lot of promise."
Jamestown starter Duncan also had a quality outing. Duncan went four innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five.
Unlike the Eagles did to Thomas, South Callaway put some runs on the board early against Duncan.
The Bulldogs scored the game's first run on Rees's RBI single past the shortstop; Lepper sprinted home from third to score. Two at-bats later, Thomas did himself a favor, smacking an RBI double down the right-field line.
Those plays gave South Callaway a 2-0 lead after one, extending its advantage to 3-0 in the third. Braden Allen made that happen with an RBI single to right field.
That was the last time the Bulldogs did some damage until the sixth. Between Allen's single and the end of the fifth, South Callaway only had two hits -- both were singles.
Back came the Bulldogs' bats in the sixth, though.
South Callaway didn't want to deal with the embarrassment of losing to a Class 1 team, so Lepper hit a two-out RBI single to make it a two-run game, 6-4. It almost added another in the second, as Edwards flew out to right field for the final out with runners on first and third.
That frame seemed to bring South Callaway back to life in the seventh.
To start the seventh, Thomas received a free pass to lead off the inning. And similarly to Lepper, Thomas reached home following the leadoff walk, which he did two at-bats later on a wild pitch.
The hero before the game-winning hero -- Tucker Jones -- evened the score with an RBI single right field. And that was, of course, followed up by the heroics of Lepper in extra innings.
Class 3 South Callaway (2-0) remains undefeated at the start of its long week of games, while Jamestown (0-1) began its season with a hard-fought loss.
"It's always a good ball game, regardless of class," Lepper said. "I've got two cousins on that team. One of them was out today, but Tate (Duncan) started the game off.
"He was cruising there for a while, and he held some pretty good hitters to a handful (of hits). If a couple of guys behind him make plays, it's probably a 1-0 ballgame through four. Both these starters threw really good ballgames."
The South Callaway Bulldogs will want to keep it up when they host their Callaway Cup rival, the North Callaway Thunderbirds (0-0), at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Mokane. It'll be South Callaway's third game and its third opponent of a different class in as many days.
"We're looking to kind of pick up where we left off the other day," Lepper said. "Not trying to do too much. Keep things simple. Get ahead, and our hitters, to have some good plate appearances. And that's all we're after."