It was less than an ideal day for baseball, but Mission Hills Manager Corey Sanders wasn't complaining.
After wading through a rain delay, a late change in playing sites, a defense that continues to provide offense for the opposition and nine innings of a do-or-die game, Sanders got the result he wanted Thursday at the Senior League World Series:
Mission Hills 9, Belgium 3.
The victory keeps Mission Hills alive in the double-elimination tournament that concludes Sunday. Mission Hills continues its battle back through the loser's bracket with a 5 p.m. game tonight against the loser of a morning game between the East and Latin America all-stars.
"This is a momentum builder," Sanders said. "The good point about this team is that when it comes down to the clutch, most of the time they come through."
Mission Hills came back three times Thursday before eliminating a team of American citizens from a U.S. air force base in extra innings.
The West regional champions trailed, 1-0, going into the sixth inning but rallied for a tie when Ronald Robard singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a Joey Marquis single.
Belgium took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning and was one strike from winning in the top of the seventh. But Brian Eldridge's two-out, two-strike bloop single scored Mike Rodrigues to force another tie.
Robard led off the eighth with the second of his three hits over the final three innings and scored the go-ahead run on Frank Serna's double.
After Belgium tied it in the bottom of the inning, Mission Hills scored six times in the ninth to seal it. J.R. Trujillo clubbed a two-run homer, and Robard and Serna added run-scoring singles. Tim Costic, who struck out nine in six innings, ended the scoring with a two-run single.
Sanders said the rain delay affected his team in the early innings. "We didn't start playing (well) until the fifth inning," he said.
"I thought we might come out sloppy and we did. The kids sat around for a couple of hours and we didn't think we'd play."
The game was salvaged when it was moved from Joe Eckert Field to Lake Station, where the drainage from two days' rain was aided by a crushed stone infield. Play is scheduled to return to Eckert Field today, assuming the rain has passed and the blow-drying efforts of helicopters are successful.
Defense is of more concern to Sanders than the playing site, however. Each of Belgium's runs was unearned as Mission Hills committed four errors.
Mission Hills has not allowed an earned run in the tournament. But it has given up six runs on nine errors.
The pitching staff, in fact, has not given up an earned run in the last five games.
"We're going to have to play some defense to win out here," Sanders said.
If Mission Hills wins tonight, it would have to win doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday to capture the World Series championship.
Colin Hines, a left-handed pitcher who started the first game against the Far East all-stars, will be on the mound tonight for Mission Hills.