From a baseball purist’s standpoint, it was far from an instant classic.
Wednesday night’s non-league matchup between defending Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion St. John’s Jesuit and 2013 Northern Lakes League favorite Maumee had plenty of substance for the high school fan.
St. John’s senior designated hitter Connor Scott — facing an 0-2 count with two out and the bases loaded — delivered a clutch, two-run single to lift the Titans to an 8-7 walk-off victory against the visiting Panthers.
St. John's Jesuit’s T.J. Lake (11) celebrates with Nolan Silberhorn (22) after scoring the game winner.
PHOTO GALLERY: Titans top Panthers 8-7
“I believe it was a changeup,” Scott said of the game’s final pitch. “I was thinking fastball, but you’ve got to be able to adjust. I was thinking, ‘One pitch, one spot, and I’ll take it.’
“[Brown] threw it on the outer half and I tried not to pull it. Luckily it got through there. Maumee’s a great team. They already beat us in a scrimmage.
"It’s only the third game of the season, and we have a long way to go, but I’m happy I got the opportunity to get up there [in a big spot] and hit.”
The back-and-forth battle was almost too much excitement for first-year Titans coach Greg Christian, who is still recovering from his Feb. 6 surgery to repair a ruptured heart valve.
Maumee's Tommy Henry scores on a wild pitch thrown by St. John's pitcher Jacek Czerwinski, left during the third inning of Wednesday’s game. Henry also drove in a run for the Panthers.
“I was supposed to stay calm in here [third base coach’s box], and these kids test you a little bit,” said Christian, who came to St. John’s as an assistant last year after spending 27 seasons (1999-2011 as head coach) at his alma mater, Cardinal Stritch.
“I’m feeling good. I just can’t lift anything over 10 pounds yet, and I have to take a year off from throwing or hitting. But I’m getting stronger every day, and I’ve got some great assistants who are getting everything done here. It’s going good.”
Maumee reliever Allen Brown, the Panthers’ third pitcher, appeared poised to save a win for teammate Jordan Spellis, who had worked four innings after entering in the third.
Brown yielded an infield single to the St. John’s No. 9 hitter, Alex Gum, in between a Mike Eddingfield popout and Devon Garcia’s flyout to center.
He walked T.J. Lake and hit Nolan Silberhorn with a pitch, loading the bases before regaining his composure, albeit briefly, against Scott.
That’s when the Titans’ stocky cleanup hitter capped a 2-for-4, three-RBI day by grounding a single through the middle.
Gum scored ahead of Lake, whose slide on a bang-bang play at the plate jarred the ball from the mitt of Panthers senior catcher Brad Cousino to end the game and lift St. John’s to 3-0 on the young season.
Maumee (2-1) had nearly walked a tightrope to victory after its three pitchers scattered 10 hits, 10 walks, and the Panthers’ defense mixed in three errors.
Instead, Scott’s clutch hit gave the pitching victory to fellow senior Jimmy Scott, who worked the final 1 2/3 innings.
“They did a nice job,” Maumee coach Cam Coutcher said of St. John’s win. “They put the ball in play, and we had to do a lot of things even to be where we were.
“We made a couple nice plays defensively at the plate and turned [three] double plays. They’re a good hitting team, and they did enough to beat us there at the end.”
Maumee had grabbed a 3-0 after its first two at bats. Tom Henry reached on a first-inning error and scored on Steve Duby’s double.
In the second inning, with Cousino and Brown having reached on walks, Maumee had two outs when David McCrum (3 for 4, two doubles, three RBIs) hit what appeared to be an easy foul pop that would have become the third out.
St. John's Jim Scott tags out Maumee's Tommy Henry at second base during the fifth inning. Maumee grabbed a 3-0 lead before the Titans stormed back for an 8-7 non-league victory.
First baseman Silberhorn failed to secure the catch, and McCrum made the Titans pay on the next pitch with a two-run double to left for a 3-0 lead.
St. John’s rallied for four runs in the bottom of the second, when Panthers starting pitcher Garrett Siefer struggled through a 43-pitch inning, allowing three singles and walking home two of the Titans’ four runs.
Maumee tied the game in the top of the third with the run scoring on a wild pitch from Titan starter Jacek Czerwinski.
St. John’s made it 5-4 in the bottom half, when Colin Korte led off with a single and later scored on Garcia’s single to center.
The Panthers added two runs in the fifth on a McCrum double, Henry’s RBI single, and a one-out sacrifice fly from Alex Misko.
They made it 7-5 in the sixth, when Spellis led off with a single, Brown advanced him with a bunt, and McCrum plated him on his third hit of the game.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.
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