7th inning flash flood carries Pilgrims
PLYMOUTH — Floods, snow and a Plymouth win, it really doesn’t get any better in April.
While snow fell intermittently and every other baseball team in the NLC decided to take the night off, Plymouth’s Pilgrims and the Warsaw Tigers did everything they could to get their game in despite the conditions. At the end it was Plymouth with a flash flood of a seventh inning that was able to overcome Warsaw by a 4-3 final.
It was an unlikely finish made all the more dramatic as a young Plymouth team made a step towards learning how to win — especially over a talented, veteran Warsaw team.
Plymouth could manage just four hits off Warsaw starter Forde Ness, but the chink in the armor began to show in reliever Tanner Balazs when Plymouth catcher Elijah Nixon was able to drive home the first Pilgrim run in spite of an outstanding play by Tiger shortstop Brandon Shipp. When Blake Milliser crossed the plate with the first run it seemed to change momentum in the game.
“I felt pretty good in the seventh having gotten that run (the inning before) with the top of our order coming up,” said Plymouth coach Ryan Wolfe. “I hope to use this. A game like this you can get real high and emotional, but it’s how you respond. It’s a new game tomorrow. All I could ask of the kids was give us a shot to win, and they did.”
Much of that effort to give the team a chance to win was provided by sophomore starter Joey Dragani in his first start of the new season.
He went the distance and gave up 10 hits but more importantly made big pitches and minimized the damage in innings three and four, when the Tigers had prime opportunities to put the young Pilgrims behind a big deficit. They could manage just three runs.
“I talked to Joey quite a bit last night when we met together as a team and the two previous outings he had he was up in the zone,” said Wolfe. “With his change up and with his curve ball. I felt we threw a lot more change ups than anything tonight because they were aggressive — they were swinging first pitch and when we throw that change up first pitch and get ahead in the count then we can really mix it up. He did a nice job tonight.”
In spite of three errors the Pilgrims also tightened up, making some key defensive plays in the game and found themselves down only two in their last at bat. Two quick outs and two quick strikes had the Pilgrims to their last strike.
Riley Cartwright started the comeback. He and Bailey Clark each fought off two strike curve balls to set the comeback up.
“Riley did a good job of making the adjustment on that curve,” said Wolfe. “Bailey was down in the count and he did a good job fighting that off and shooting it into right center. When he had gotten on earlier in the game Coach (Mark) Adams yelled at me ‘hey do you want a runner’ I’m glad I thought it was a little early. We saved Levi (Schuler) for the end and he ended up scoring that tying run. It was a great win.”
The coach also had kind words for the hero of the night — Blake Milliser — who shot a two run double off fence in left, barely missing a three run homer, and then scored the game winner on a wild pitch. It was part of a three hit night for the Plymouth junior.
“He’s a guy that wants to be in that position,” said Wolfe “And a guy that the farther we go in the season the more confidence is going to build in him and the more confidence is going to build around him, and I’m pretty proud of him.”
Plymouth moves to 3-5 with their first NLC win and Warsaw goes to 2-3 falling for the first time in NLC action.
• PLYMOUTH 4, WARSAW 3
Warsaw: 002 100 0 — 3 10 3
Plymouth: 000 001 3 —4 8 3
Joe Dragani (1-0) and Elijah Nixon. Forde Ness; Tanner Balazs (6), Tyler LaFollette (7), and Jared Lemler.
2B: Josh Frantz (W), Caleb Heckaman (W), Blake Milliser (P).