Forest City, NC (23 July 2018) The Owls get a big win at home as they walk off in the bottom of the 9th against the Gastonia Grizzlies from McNair Field.
"I've said it before, and ill say it again. I've never met a win I haven't liked" said head coach Matt Reed on his team's walk off victory.
The Grizzlies would strike first on a soggy and muggy afternoon in the top of the 1st. With Colton Thomas on, Jakob Rolly would hit an RBI single giving the Grizzlies an early 1-0 lead.
The Owls would answer in the bottom of the 2nd with Garrett Blaylock scoring on a passed ball by catcher Conner Durden. With the game tied 1-1 from the friendly confines of McNair Field, the Grizzlies would strike back with a force.
Gastonia would get three straight hits from Tate Pennington, Chase Hager and Tommy Bullock (who would drive in Pennington on a double). After Hager would score on a ground out from Thomas, a wild pitch would score Bullock from third and give the Grizzlies a 4-1 lead.
Despite the one bad inning, "Cowboy" Troy Hall would pitch another great game going five innings, giving up four runs and striking out four in the process.
It would be the Owls turn to have a big inning in their half of the 6th. After a bloop single into right field from Kendall McGowan, Blaylock and Joe Vranesh would reach on walks. With Elijah Henderson pinch running for Blaylock (who is still dealing with a hamstring issue) it would be Houston Wright to provide some 6th inning firepower and hit a scorching line drive single into center field. Both McGowan and Henderson would come around to score and the comeback was on for the Owls in the last half of the game.
"He [Blaylock] had a little bit of a hamstring thing. I needed fresh legs out there to run for him and Elijah was ready to go, came in and score two runs. A great overall job to keep us in it for those guys" said Reed.
With the score 4-3, the Grizzlies would make it difficult for the Owls to comeback thanks to a sacrifice fly from Conner Durden, scoring Hager who reached on a single earlier in the inning.
However, the Owls determination and grit wouldn't be denied in the last two innings. With Henderson on at first, Vranesh would come up and hit a clutch RBI double and bring Henderson all the way around from first to score. The Owls would only get one run in the bottom of the 8th and would be trailing by one (5-4) heading into the bottom of the 9th.
"It doesn't matter if you are down 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, or 3-2 you still want to be able to come in and put a good swing on it and that's exactly what he [Vranesh] did" said Reed.
After Daniel Kite got a ground ball double play to end the top of the 9th, Reed would pinch hit for Chase Barbary (1-3 on the day) with Xavier Rodriguez. With new Grizzlies pitcher, Mason Green, into pitch for Gastonia; he would walk Rodriguez on four straight pitches and bring the tying run up to the plate in the form of Colton Yeager.
Yeager would be sent up there to bunt Rodriguez over to second, but after a pop up foul attempt, Green would walk Yeager on the next four pitches and be replaced by Gabriel Rodriguez.
It was decision time for Reed in the bottom of the 9th. With Derek Perry up, down by one and two runners on with nobody out. Reed had to decide whether to have Perry bunt or swing away.
"I don't want our guys to ever think we will just give in" said Reed. "He [Perry] deserved a chance to swing at it and he went up there and did exactly that".
Swing away was the call and Perry didn't miss it. Perry would double down the left field line and bring home Rodriguez who would score the game tying run. With two runners in scoring position and nobody out, The Grizzlies would intentionally walk McGowan to bring up the third baseman, AJ Wright
The Crowd from McNair Field would come alive as Wright stepped up to the plate. Wright would work the count in his favor, foul off a couple of good pitches and was now facing a 3-2 pitch and a chance to win the game. With the bases full of Owls, a tied 5-5 game, AJ Wright would take a high, inside fastball from Rodriguez and walk to first as the walk off hero for the Owls.
"You work to the flow of a game and its situations, like that is the reason why I have him [Wright] batting third. He did a great job of being patient and earned himself that RBI walk" said Reed.
The Owls would win the game 6-5 thanks to Wright's walk and win their second game via a walk off. The Owls now control the Silver cup series 6-3, and have a chance to win the silver cup on Saturday, July 28 from Sims Legion Park in Gastonia (a place where the Grizzlies are 7-13 at in the 2018 CPL season).
Forest City is back in action from McCrary Park in Asheboro, NC tomorrow at 7:05.