Weird plays are a part of the game of baseball.
Strange things happen, and when they do, you can always guarantee some old-timer who has been around the game a while will say, ‘That’s baseball for you.”
Garaway head coach Justin Elmore has been around the game a while, and he has seen a lot of oddity in the game, but what happened again to Garaway in their double-header opener versus Dalton Saturday, April 2 on The Hill in Sugarcreek left him dumbfounded.
Trailing 12-8 heading into the bottom of the seventh versus the Bulldogs, Garaway mounted a rally. Garaway had scored twice, and then with two outs and the bases loaded, a wild pitch led to not just one but two runs, which tied the score at 12.
Talk about weird, just 48 hours earlier, that same rare play had helped Garaway tie the score, in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, against Strasburg.
That weird one led to an eventual Garaway win, and so too did this one, this time the Pirates earning the 13-12 win in the bottom of the eight inning, when Derek Briggs led off with a single, was bunted perfectly to second by Trey Hershberger and scored on Quinn Miller’s crushing single to left.
It capped off a wild game that saw a monster wind making it tough to field fly balls all day long.
“Twice in the span of 48 hours, we score two runs on a past ball to tie the game in our last at bat,” said Elmore with a chuckle. “That is truly unbelievable. The odds of that happening like that are so small. I can’t even explain it.”
Getting to the point where the Pirates were trailing 12-8 wasn’t something Elmore would care to explain either. His Pirates did not do much in the field to support Hershberger. Leading 7-3 in the top of the fourth, the Pirates kicked, booted and dropped enough baseballs to tie the game at 7. They continued the comedy of errors in the fifth, when they coughed up three more unearned runs to fall behind 11-8. Ridgewood would get one more in the top of the seventh to set the stage for the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not finish.
Hershberger led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, and after Miller flew out to center, Micah VanFossen hit a chip shot down the right field line for a single. Austin Miller then walked, and Dallas Foster crushed a single to right-center and Ian Hershberger lashed a single up the middle. With the bases loaded and trailing by two, Matt Honaker popped out to third for the second out. Down to its final out, hot-hitting B.J. Schwartz went to the plate, and promptly got drilled in the foot, reloading the bases. That left Garaway’s fate in the bat of Ben Miller, who watched as an errant pitch allowed Foster to race home, followed closely by Ian Hershberger, who bolted home as the throw from the Bulldog catcher zipped past the pitcher at home plate, rolled to the mound and actually hit the rubber. Miller would eventually strike out with Schwartz on third, but the damage was done.
Foster sailed through the eighth, and Briggs came in and shot one back up through the middle to begin Garaway’s eighth. Trey Hershberger then executed a perfect sacrifice bunt, before Miller simply turned on a fastball and drilled it right down the left field line, allowing Briggs to score easily from second.
“It felt great,” said Miller of his game-winner. “I had been struggling the past two games, so to come in and get the bat on it like that felt good. I just wanted to put it in play somewhere, and give Derek a chance to advance. I was in a line-drive mentality, looking to hit something hard. I think that the way we have come back the last couple of games says a lot about us. We are a no-quit team no matter what the situation might be.”
They didn’t quit, and Miller’s hit set off another unlikely Garaway celebration.
“I told the guys after the game that maybe we can start putting games away before the last inning sooner or later,” said Elmore. “But I love the resolve we are showing and the mental toughness. We didn’t quit, we kept fighting and we embraced the opportunity to make something happen when our backs were against the wall.
“There is some luck involved with what has happened to us late in games, but our kids have put themselves in position to mentally be tough enough to accept that challenge and they have been coming through.”
Trey Hershberger gave up 10 runs in the game, but only four of those were earned. He got relief from VanFossen, who went 1-2/3 innings allowing one run, and Foster, who picked up the win, throwing the final two frames.
“We made a ton of errors, and usually you don’t win games when you do that,” said Elmore. “We just happened to get guys on and get hits at the right time. But I thought Trey’s sacrifice bunt was huge. It is a very simple play, but people who understand baseball know how huge that kind of play is.
“I thought both of those guys came in and gave us a chance to stay in this game, and that was big.”
Miller had a monster game for the Pirates, going 5-of-6, VanFossen and Foster each banged out three hits, Ian Hershberger, Schwartz and Joe Haynes all added a pair of hits.
But for all of the mashing going on at the plate, it was one of those “baseball is strange” plays that ultimately allowed the Pirates to escape with the win.