GENOA — When Genoa shortstop Alex Hayes ran through a stop sign and ended a Comets’ rally early in Friday’s tilt with Eastwood, the junior vowed to make up for it.
In the bottom of the final inning, Hayes drove in the game-winning run with a walk-off single to send Genoa to a 3-2 triumph.
“I hate when I mess up and I should have gotten that [early] run for the team,” Hayes said. “It motivated me. It felt amazing to get that team win.”
The dramatic victory helped Genoa (12-6 overall) stay in the hunt with a 7-2 record in the Northern Buckeye Conference. Eastwood (14-6) fell to 7-3 in the NBC after a 7-0 start in league play. Both teams are chasing Otsego (13-5), which improved to 10-0 in the NBC with a 13-7 win over Elmwood on Friday.
“We want to compete for the championship and you never know,” Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar said. “Everything is still up in the air.”
Hayes, who entered the game leading the NBC in batting average (.554) and RBIs with 26, went 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
With the game tied at 2, Logan Scott started the rally with a lead-off single. Casey Gose was safe after laying down a sacrifice bunt then Cody Pickard was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs. Hayes came up and drilled the ball deep over the center fielder’s head to win it.
“I tried to stay calm. I knew the curveball was his best pitch and I wanted it. He gave it to me right down the middle and I drove the ball,” Hayes said.
Genoa sophomore starter Luke Rightnowar threw 99 pitches, including 57 strikes, to earn the complete-game victory. Rightnowar (6-0) settled in after early command issues and struck out four.
“He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do and gone deep in every game,” Ron Rightnowar said of his son.
Eastwood coach Kevin Leady said a crushing, last-inning loss to Otsego on Monday had a lingering impact.
“I told them they have to get over it quick because baseball is a cruel game,” Leady said. “We’re not dealing with it well right now.”
Genoa took the lead with one run in the third but the Comets could have done further damage. Gose scored on Hayes’ RBI single up the middle for a 2-1 lead.
Nick Wolfe doubled, but Hayes was caught in a run-down between third and home.
“I wanted that run real bad, so I came screaming around third,” Hayes said.
Rightnowar said Hayes didn’t hear him.
“I thought I was screaming pretty loud and did everything but grab him,” Rightnowar said, chuckling.
Genoa grabbed a 1-0 lead when Kyle Edwards, who doubled, scored on an error in the second.
The Eagles knotted the game at one in the third inning when Ryan Mang scored on Matt Drown’s RBI single. Eastwood had the bases loaded with one out when the Comets turned a double play. Logan Scott fielded a sharp grounder at first base, threw home for one out, and the catcher Wolfe completed the double play with a throw back to first.
Eastwood starter Grant Peters was relieved after three innings by Drown. Drown was tagged with the loss after giving up five hits in four innings.
“The kids are learning how to play the game the right way, which is the most important thing to me,” Rightnowar said. “Luke pitched his butt off,” Hayes said. “This was [a] big win for the team. We’re in the race.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.