For over six innings, the Union baseball Wildcats played catch-up against the North County Raiders.
At the right moment, Union (3-5, 2-1) came through to win Wednesday’s baseball contest, 7-6.
Union entered the bottom of the final frame down 6-5.
But, with one out, Blake Pickard singled and Avery Griffin tripled. Mike Wachter, running for Pickard, crossed the plate on the play.
North County intentionally walked Dillon Breeden and Nick Schumaker to set up a force situation. Nick Eads came through with a single to bring Griffin home with the winning run.
“This was an important win for our team,” Union Head Coach Ryan Bailey said. “We started off a little rough tonight but we battled through and learned a little about ourselves. We fought hard the whole game and after some early mistakes, we played pretty much mistake-free the rest of the way. We were able to work the count, get some timely hits, steal bases, get down bunts, and do countless little things that need to be done to win games. I’m very proud of our team.”
Bailey said the win was about much more than just the game-winning rally.
“It gets lost in a walk-off win with clutch hits by Blake Pickard, Avery Griffin and Nick Eads, but our bullpen did a great job of coming in and shutting North County down for the final two innings,” Bailey said. “Curtis Bergner came into a tough spot, down three with a runner in scoring position and only one out. He struck out their cleanup hitter and got a weak grounder to first base from the next batter.”
Bergner relieved starter Drew Reed and pitched through the end of the sixth inning. He struck out one.
Reed went 5.1 innings, allowing six runs (two earned) on eight hits and four walks. He struck out two.
Breeden was the winning pitcher, fanning two in the final inning.
“Dillon Breeden was able to get the win by coming in and throwing strikes and getting us back in the dugout quick with a little momentum to try and win the game,” Bailey said. “Those two (Bergner and Breeden) really stepped up for the team.”
North County opened with one run in the first and three in the second. Union responded with one run in the bottom of the second and two in the third. North County added another run in the fourth and one in the top of the sixth before the Wildcats rallied.
Union scored twice in the bottom of the sixth and twice in the bottom of the seventh to win the game.
Union had nine hits in the game and three batters came through with six of those hits.
Griffin posted two hits, including a triple, with two runs and an RBI. Schumaker had two hits, one walk and one run. Reed had two hits and scored a run.
Pickard, Tanner Bunch and Eads had the other hits.
Bunch sacrificed and drove in a run. Eads walked, sacrificed and drove in a run.
Breeden walked twice and scored once.
Union’s last-inning heroics continued Thursday during Four Rivers Conference action against Hermann. Union scored in the top of the eighth to beat the Bearcats, 5-4.
Hermann took the lead with two runs in the third, but Union came back with two in the fourth. Hermann scored twice in the fifth and Union tied it in the top of the sixth.
Bunch singled home courtesy runner Nick Kretzler, in for Hughes, for the winning run.
“Tanner Bunch had a great ending to this game,” Bailey said. “He got the hit that scored the tying run in the sixth inning and then got the game-winning hit in the eighth. He also made the last out in the field on a hard ground ball to his left. That’s the kind of day at the ballpark that will put a smile on a kid’s face as he falls asleep at night.”
Bunch ended with two hits and two RBIs.
Schumaker had two hits, one run, one RBI, two stolen bases and was hit by a pitch.
“Nick Schumaker has really been hitting the ball well and he had a good game tonight,” Bailey said. He had two singles with a run and RBI. He also had a couple steals, one of home to cut the lead to one in the sixth inning. Defensively, he robbed Hermann of an extra base hit in the first on a running grab in center and then doubled up the runner who thought it was down. Overall, a very good game by a senior — exactly what you need in a close conference game.”
Reed also had two hits.
Eads and Griffin had one hit apiece. Hughes walked twice. Skyler Wilmesher stole two bases and scored twice.
On the hill, Keaton Groff started and lasted three innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, two walks and one hit batter. He fanned four.
Mattingly relieved and went two innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out one.
Fink pitched the final three innings, striking out four.
“Our pitching stats for the first five innings won’t look great, but Groff and Mattingly kept us in the game when they didn’t have their best stuff,” Bailey said. “That’s all you can ask from a teammate in an important conference game. When Fink came in he was on top of his game and when we fielded the ball behind him I liked our chances.”