Four run sixth inning propels Falcons in comeback victory over Lakewood
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
Being able to find a way to win no matter what the situation, no matter what odds, and especially no matter what the deficit is probably the greatest characteristic any potential championship team can possess.
After looking like it was going to be on the wrong end of a pitcher’s duel after five innings, the Darlington Falcons found a way to win. Breaking through an offensive slump and scoring four runs in the sixth inning, the Falcons earned a 4-2 comeback victory over the Lakewood Gators at home on Tuesday, March 17.
“They (Lakewood) got some (runs) early,” Darlington baseball head coach Billy Sylvester said on the comeback victory. “It’s been the thing all year, we battle and battle. It’s taken us till the sixth inning to start making adjustments and then when we finally made them we are able to pull out some wins.”
After being shut down for five innings by Lakewood, the Falcons Justin Mack got Darlington started with a single down the left field line, reaching second base on an error by the Gator’s left fielder and from there it was like a snowball effect.
Austin White, the next batter for the Falcons, singled into right field for a base hit and Mack scored on the second consecutive error by Lakewood, this time as the right fielder let the ball go right under his glove, letting it get away from him and allowing White to get to third.
Darlington’s good fortunes did not stop there, however. With Lakewood’s lead cut to 2-1 Collin Bonnoitt’s groundball somehow found its way into right field for a base hit, scoring White all while Lakewood’s right fielder made his second consecutive error, the Gator’s third in the inning, allowing Bonnoitt to get to second.
“It felt great,” Bonnoitt said on his hit that tied the game. “It was a great feeling, we weren’t ready to die down and I was ready for my hit; it was my time I guess.”
With the game tied at two, the Gators opted to change pitchers, but it had no effect in stopping the momentum that Darlington had already gained.
Following Bonnoitt, Dustin Knotts lined out and it looked like Lakewood had made the right decision to change to the pitcher, but then the Falcons rallied with two outs.
Ethan McDonald singled up the middle on a hit and run, letting Jared Bell, who was pinch-running for Bonnoitt, score giving Darlington its first lead of the game at 3-2.
“I just hadn’t hit well earlier in the game,” McDonald said on hitting what ended up being the game-winning RBI single. “I knew I had to come through big for my team. They always back me up so I knew I had to be there for them.”
“At that point of the game that was the turning point,” Sylvester said on that defining moment in the sixth inning. “We could have laid down or we could have gotten up and battled and showed some heart and that’s what they did.”
The Falcons did not stop there, though, adding one more run for insurance as McDonald scored on a Lakewood throwing error, the fifth error of the inning for the Gators that allowed Jared Boswell to reach safely.
Lakewood did not fold, though, as the Gators had the bases loaded with two-outs. Knotts, who Sylvester had called on in the seventh to close after Lakewood had one runner on with one out, was able to get the needed ground out to escape the jam and secure the victory.
The Gators, for five innings, really played a complete game against the Falcons, playing good defense behind great pitching all while scoring one run in the first inning on a double steal and another run in the third when a Darlington throwing error and sacrifice bunt put a runner on third, allowing a simple single to score the second run of the game.
Bryant Huggins, the starting pitcher for the Falcons pitched a gem of a game as well, pitching his way out of a couple of tough situations that could have really changed the complexion of the game. Out of the two runs that Lakewood scored, only one was earned and he finished with eight strikeouts.
“After that first inning I knew that I had come out that next inning and keep my head in the game and work harder than I did in the first inning,” Huggins, who despite earning a no-decision, kept Darlington in striking distance of Lakewood, said. “After that it got to me and I had to get going, throw my game and throw pitches.”
The win not only kept Darlington’s regular season record perfect, but also improved the Falcons to 2-0 in region play.
Darlington won its other game of the week, defeating the Manning Monarchs 4-2 at home this past Friday.
The win improved the Falcons overall record to 5-0, 3-0 in the region.