With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and a chance to win the game, Matthew Walters had a good idea what was about to come his way.
Having seen just two curveballs in two prior at-bats from Lakeview pitcher Dakota Thomas, the Pinecrest freshman figured the first pitch he’d see this time around would be a fastball, outside corner.
And that’s exactly what he got.
Walters drove that pitch opposite field for a walk-off single, bringing home Anthony Carco and giving the Paladins a 4-3 victory over the Lions in a Region 8-A game at home.
"I knew a fastball was coming," Walters said. "I was anxious to get up there, and I knew it was going to come down to me. I had to do something, just make contact. And I did."
The Paladins’ victory came after climbing out of an early 3-1 hole, but that deficit could have been far worse. Lakeview left the bases loaded twice in the first three innings and stranded 13 runners in total.
Much of the credit for the damage control went to Pinecrest pitcher Todd Mahaffey, who entered the game in the third. He didn’t surrender a run in 4 2/3 innings of work and struck out five.
"He’s our ace," Pinecrest head coach Daniel Stockdale said of Mahaffey. "Todd was great tonight, did a good job limiting their opportunities."
Thomas went the distance for Lakeview, surrendering just five hits in seven innings. However, several miscues by his defense coupled with seven walks allowed Pinecrest opportunities to generate offense—and the Paladins certainly executed.
Anthony Carco and Matt Walters scored via separate passed balls: Carco got home after walking, Walters reached base after an error. Additionally, a bunt from Walters in the third led to an errant throw by Lakeview’s catcher, which created another run for Pinecrest.
"We got the bat on the ball enough today, and we took advantage of the chances we had," said Stockdale. "Thomas’ control was a little off, and we took advantage of them."
Indeed, Thomas’ command was not particularly sharp. The righty piled up seven walks allowed, two of which were instrumental in Pinecrest’s seventh inning rally.
After giving up a lead-off single to Garrett Kliphouse in the seventh, Thomas walked Anthony Carco and Ryan McCarthy, loading the bases for Walters, who promptly ended the game.
"Being able to load the bases was big," Stockdale said. "Dakota is one of the best pitchers in the state, but we got just enough runners on to beat him."
Pinecrest is now riding a three-game winning streak with just four games left in the regular season schedule. With a 12-8 record and 8-7 mark in the region, Pinecrest feels confident it can secure a playoff berth with a strong finish.
"This gives us a lot of hope for the playoffs," Walters added. "We just have to keep a winning record going."