After his team surrendered eight unanswered runs in just two frames, Pinecrest Academy coach Ryan Weingart just hoped his players still had it in them to stay focused. Luckily, catcher Andres Perez was as unphased as could be.
Two heads up plays by the junior catcher in the final inning helped Pinecrest escape for a dramatic 11-10 home victory against Fellowship Christian Monday afternoon—just three days after losing by the same score against Christian Heritage. The nail-biting escape also marked the end of a three-game losing streak for the Paladins, who now sit 5-9 and 4-3 in the Region 6A standings.
“We fought through the whole game. They had a great comeback, but we finished it,” Weingart said through a sigh of relief. “Once you give up a big lead and they come back with eight straight, it’s really easy to give up and get down, but our guys stuck through it.”
Perez put an end to the chaos in the top of the seventh when he threw out Fellowship’s Davis Wynn at second. A throwing error from backup shortstop Ryan McCarthy opened the door for Wynn to try to get into scoring position, but Perez left his catching position to backup first and ended up in the perfect place at the perfect time.
Four batters later, consecutive singles and a passed ball put Fellowship’s tying and game-leading run in scoring position, but Perez once again took charge, just connecting with Ford Imornone, who had to make a full extension from first base, to record the final out and prevent the tie.
“You leave it up to a guy like Perez to finish a game,” Weingart said. “Ford made a heck of a pick. It was an exciting way to end a game like that.”
Out of the 20 combined runs in the contest, eight came off of fielding errors, wild pitches or passed balls. Pinecrest looked to be on its way to taking a shortened victory after building an 11-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth. In that frame, the Paladins recorded eight hits, including a bases-clearing triple from McCarthy.
However, in the following frame, Fellowship fought back to make the score 11-7 thanks to three consecutive walks to open the inning, an RBI double from Kurtis Royalty and a two-RBI triple from Austin Webb. Fellowship scored three more runs in the following inning to pull within one, as Pinecrest cycled through pitchers.
After starting pitcher Todd Mahaffey was pulled after allowing two walks in the top of the fifth, Conner Ettmueller faced four batters and was then replaced by Corey Downes.
Ben Gobbel entered in the final inning and earned the save for Pinecrest, while Mahaffey finished with three hits, three strikeouts and five walks in 4.2 innings pitched.
Perez started the offense early, hitting a solo homerun in his first at-bat. McCarthy, Perez, John Crone, Micky Mangan and Matt Walters each had two hits for the Paladins during the contest.