No. 9 hitter Landon Mason provided Bombers starter Sam Perez with plenty of run support as the Bombers beat the Branson Nationals 6-0 on Thursday at Dey Field at Liberty Park.
Hitting at the bottom of the order, the Bomber second baseman went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs, one to allow Perez to spend most of the game pitching with a lead and two more as insurance in the seventh as part of a four-run Bombers rally.
Perez pitched seven innings, allowing no runs on three hits and striking out 11 while walking two.
“I’ve been trying to work in the curveball a little more as the fourth pitch and it definitely paid off (Thursday),” Perez said. “It had guys guessing a little bit and then coming back with the slider and the fastball. Honestly, I think I threw more off-speed (Thursday) than fastball.”
Perez was primarily used out of the bullpen this spring at Missouri State, making just one start, but started for the Bombers last summer.
“Some of my relief appearances at Missouri State were long outings, five or six innings,” he said. “So coming out here and not being in a so stressful environment, just being able to relax and pitch, I felt no pressure pitching. It was just comfortable throwing on the mound.”
Perez allowed a two-out single in the second to Brad Jelinek and a bunt single to Kolby Follis in the third, but neither runner made it any farther than first.
The Nationals got runners to second and third in the sixth inning with two out, but Perez’s 10th strikeout of the game ended the threat.
“That’s domination,” said Bombers manager Craig McAndrews. “He controlled the whole game. His poise is why he’s good. He lets up three hits, it doesn’t matter. He strikes out three, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same demeanour the whole time. That’s why Sam Perez is really good.”
The Bombers got their first hit and got on the board in the third. Stewart Nelson led off with a single to right and later scored on a single up the middle by Mason.
“The pitcher fell behind 2-0 so I was just sitting on fastball,” Mason said. “I knew it was coming since I’m the No. 9 hitter, so that was a guarantee.”
The Bombers stranded runners in the fifth and sixth before loading the bases with no one out in the bottom of the seventh, chasing Branson starter Austin Knight. Reliever Hayden Crowe came in to face Mason and Mason greeted him with a double down the left-field line to drive in Alex Del Rio and Nelson to make it 3-0.
“I was looking to hit the ball hard there,” Mason said.
Justin Holt made it 5-0 moments later, pushing a single through the drawn-in infield to score Cory Chambliss and Mason.
The Bombers added another with a two-out rally in the eighth. Nelson doubled to right and Chambliss followed with an RBI single to make it 6-0, another run from the bottom of the order and Nelson’s third of the night.
“The middle’s not always going to take care of business and it’s nice when your bottom does,” McAndrews said.
The Bombers will visit the St. Joseph Mustangs on Saturday.