Forest City, NC (26 July 2018) In a nominee for "best CPL game of the year" the Forest City Owls emerge Victorious from McNair Field as the Owls defeat the High Point Thomasville Hi-Toms 10-9 in 10 innings.
"You can't get caught up in the moment. If you do, then you start to make bad plays. You have to remain calm and collective for the entire game and good things will come your way" said head coach Matt Reed.
The Hi-Toms would strike first in a thundering way. Hi-Tom hitters Myles Christian, Austin Pharr and Kip Brandenburg would hit three straight solo home runs and give High Point a 3-0 lead in the 4th inning.
Bobby Hampton would pitch lights out after that, going six innings, giving up four runs and striking out two.
"Three solo home runs wont beat you and it didn't. Bobby pitched a great game and I knew our offense was going to help him out" said Reed.
The Owls would answer in their half of the 4th inning with a run to chip away at the lead. With a Twilight sky over the North Carolina sky, Joe Vranesh would hit a ball a mile in the air and the Hi-Toms first baseman Brandenburg would lose it in the sky and it would fall for a base hit. Derek Perry would come around to score and give the Owls their first run and push the game to a 3-1 score.
To the bottom of the 5th we go, Ruben Trillo would single and Josh Senter would walk to put the pressure on the Hi-Toms with one out in the inning. Perry would come up and drive in Trillo with an RBI double. With runners at second and third, Kendall McGowan would get on the hit train with a bases clearing single and would give the Owls a 4-3 lead.
The Hi-Toms would tie it in the 6th as Jackson Hesterlee would drive in Pharr with an RBI single.
The tie would last until the top of the 8th, when Pharr would hit his second home run of the game and give the Hi-Toms a 5-4 lead with the heart of the order coming up for the Owls in the bottom of the 8th.
After Hi-Toms pitcher, Tyler Garam, would hit McGowan to start off the inning, AJ Wright would hit a single to move McGowan into scoring position. A wild pitch would move both runners into scoring position and with one out, Elijah Henderson would hit a ground ball to second and score McGowan and tie the game at 5-5. Hi-Toms second baseman, Bailey Welch, on the same play would throw the ball away and allow Wright to score from third. The Owls would hold a 6-5 lead and would not be done in the 8th.
"This game was a big grind. It was a grind at bats and a grind for the whole game. You have to be able stick your nose in it and pull out the clutch hits against a good team" said Reed.
Houston Wright would drive in Henderson from third, who reached third on a wild pitch thrown by new Hi-Toms pitcher Tyler Holcombe. With Joel McDaniel standing at third (who walked earlier in the inning) Trillo would hit an RBI single and push the Owls lead to 8-5.
The Hi-Toms would not quit as they would re take the lead in the top of the 9th. Four Hi-Toms would score in the inning thanks to a 2RBI double by Pharr and a couple of errors by the Owls defense. With the score at 9-8 in favor of High Point, it looked like they were going to steal one from Forest City.
Perry would think something different in the bottom of the 9th. Perry would single to start off the inning and after a stolen base, McGowan moving him over to third, AJ Wright would have a chance to tie the game. Wright would hit a fly ball to Pharr in right field and it was deep enough to score Perry from third. The Owls and the Hi-Toms were locked up a nine runs a piece and would head to extra innings.
Xavier Rodriguez would inherit two runs in the top of the 10th. After getting pinch hitter, Jacob Whitley to pop up a bunt for out number one, Rodriguez would strike out Dylan Enwiller and Bailey Welch and give the Owls a chance to walk off for the second straight time at home.
"Just got to attack the zone. Worst case scenario they put it in play and my defense backs me up. I was pumped to get the win and help my team out" said Rodriguez.
"He [Rodriguez] had a tough outing at Asheboro and it was good to see him comeback and fill up the strike zone. That was one of the things he has been doing his whole career and did a good job to get that pop up bunt and the two strikeouts" said Reed.
Vranesh and Henderson would start the bottom of the 10th on the bases and with one out, Reed would make some more clutch pinch hit decisions. Paul Salata would be the first pinch hitter and would be intentionally walked after a wild pitch by Ty Reginelli. Jordan Eckard would come up and have an opportunity to be the hero for the Owls in the 10th.
"I felt like Eckard was the right guy for the job. Sometimes those decisions work out and sometimes they don't, that's the nature of baseball and tonight it worked out" said Reed.
Eckard would fall behind in the count 1-2 and would stay alive by fouling off four pitches from Reginelli. With another 1-2 pitch, and the infield playing in, Eckard would hit a rocket down the first base line and score Vranesh on an RBI single. The Owls would walk off for the second straight home game and win the game 10-9.
"In big time moments, you have to be calm and its something I preach to my players that if you are calm and you can breathe then you have a better chance of being successful at the plate" said Reed.
"Runners on second and third, I needed to put something on the right side of the field or in the air, far enough to score the runner. He threw a breaking ball as his last pitch and I was able to take it down the first base line" said Eckard.
Forest City now moves within half a game of the Hi-Toms for first place in the West and will host the Asheboro Copperheads tomorrow from McNair Field. Tickets can be purchased a forestcitybaseball.com