I'll preface by saying this - we were up 5-2 on the Siena Saints going into the 8th inning and the wheels came off. Two on and no out with one of the most prolific home run hitters in NCAA baseball up, Dan Paolini. 2-1 count. We go with a breaking ball instead of a fastball and he crushed it to left field - up and out. Tie game, 5-5. Check swing single, pitching change, hit, hit by pitch, hit - 7-5 bad guys. Pitching change, no further damage.
Bottom 8, we pushed one across to make it 7-6. Top 9, they get a leadoff walk, stolen base (+ and errant throw into center field) so it winds up being man on third, no out, the aforementioned Paolini up. Ground out to the pitcher, one out. Intentional walk puts men on 1st and 3rd. Missile line drive to third baseman Chad Salem for the the second out. Then a harmless ground out to short.
Chasing one in the bottom of the ninth, we have the top o' the order up, just the guys we want up - the seniors (and a sophomore mixed in there). Leadoff double off the wall in left. Sac bunt puts man on third, one out. Walk - 1st and 3rd. Strikeout. Not looking too good for the good guys. Piss rod to third base, takes a candy hop, kid fields, throws a grenade to first, two hops, first baseman can't handle it, and BOOM! Collision at first just past the bag, Sheffield and their guy are piled there. Ball scoots away about fifteen feet, man on first keeps on going, keeps on going and scores the game winner when the throw home sails wide of the catcher. I thought I'd seen a ghost, I was shaking.
A freshman who's been up and down all year stepped up in a big way with two no-hit innings which gave our offense a chance to win it. He grew up a little today, and not a day too soon. He earned his stripes and it's something he can build off for next appearance. He performed in a huge spot for us when his team needed him. Huge effort.
I mean this shit is not healthy, these one-run walk off wins. Why can't it ever be easy? Playoff baseball has a different aura about it, in case you've never been a part of it. Sure, the regular season dictates who makes this four team tournament, but once the field is set, it's a dog fight. It's ten times more intense than regular season games. We're not in an automatic bid league - win and you're in, lose and it's over until next year.
Now we wait on the winner of the 2:00pm game tomorrow and play at 6:00pm with a trip to the NCAA Regionals at stake. We have one in hand - we need to lose twice (which I refuse to believe can happen) and win just one game. A one game winning streak. I like our chances, but I'm saying a prayer that it'll be a little less stressful than the past two games.
We're out for blood! Go Jaspers!
Location:Waterfront Park, Trenton, NJ