In the first four innings Wednesday night, the Post 31 Junior Patriots were in total control of their contest with the Post 36 Seals from Kernersville and held a 9-3 lead.
But in the next three innings, the Seals came fighting back and tied the game at nine in the top of the seventh. From there, the two teams would need three more innings to break that tie.
In the bottom of the tenth inning, Camden Reavis drew a walk on four pitches and then promptly advanced to second on a balk. With the infield drawn in, Ezra Baker slapped a single down the first base line to end the game and give the Patriots a 10-9 walk-off win.
“We made a lot of mistakes — we had errors and they had errors,” Post 31 Assistant Coach Ron Pruitt said after the game. “You’re talking about kids that are still getting used to playing together and we’ve been on a five-day layoff. They came back and their hearts won the ball game tonight.”
Both teams committed three errors, some more costly than others, but the real reason that the game needed three extra innings to find a winner was because of the efforts of relievers Grant Strader and Steven Mata.
Mata, Post 36’s reliever who worked the final 4 ²⁄³ innings, allowed just two hits from the 21 batters he faced and just one run. He also struck out four batters.
But Strader, who came on to pitch the final three innings of the game, was even more impressive. He faced the minimum over those three innings without allowing a baserunner and had four strikeouts as well.
And he did all that, without wearing his glasses.
“Grant wears glasses and he said, ‘Coach I can’t see, they keep fogging up.’” Pruitt said. “And I said, ‘Well what do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I want to take them off,’ and then he said, ‘Coach once I got to where I could see, I felt like I was in control and could throw it wherever I wanted to.’”
Pruitt added that Strader took the game over and all he needed was for his teammates to back him up with a run.
The Patriots were held scoreless for five innings before they found the game-winner in the tenth but before that, they were swinging hot bats. Post 31 got things started right away as Skylar Brooks had an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning and then came around to score on a wild pitch.
They kept things going in the second with three runs on four hits and an error. In the fourth, Baker, who was 4-for-4 in the game, registered his first RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly and Brooks reached on an error that plated another two runs. Brooks scored on a single from Alec Baldwin to give the Patriots a 9-3 lead.
The win makes four on the year for Post 31 (including forfeits) and keeps their postseason hopes alive.
“It was a team effort 100 percent, yes, but we need to cut down on the errors,” Pruitt said. “If we cut out the errors we are home two hours ago. We have to tighten it but you have to know some of that stuff is going to happen in summer ball because you have kids coming from different places…but we’re starting to come into our own.”