RONDA – Baseball has a way of surprising everyone in the stands and on the field. On Thursday night, East Wilkes hosted Wilkes Central in a game that saw the Eagles leading 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Cardinals knew they would have to turn up the heat, and they did just that. The bats started flying for East Wilkes, and the Cardinals were able to score six runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-5 win over Wilkes Central.
“We’ve played better ball as a whole seven innings, but in the end regardless of what happened in the first six and a third innings, when we came through right there at the end of the game with two outs, that is all that matters,” said East Wilkes head coach Bradley Hayes. “Baseball is a funny game, when you stay together and you believe in your bats and believe in your team, anything can happen. No lead is a safe lead in this game.”
Wilkes Central was able to take an early lead in the first inning. In the fifth, the Eagles added three runs and in the sixth they added their final run to the board. East Wilkes had trouble in the batter’s box in the first six innings, as the Cardinals only earned four hits. After six and a half innings, it all came down to the final inning as East Wilkes was down 5-0.
“(Going into the seventh) I was thinking we had to score runs,” said Hayes. “It helped with Trey’s lead-off triple because without that we have a single. We would had have to decide, do we try to run him, do we try to bunt, or do we try to steal him to get him within scoring position? I had already decided we were going to let our bats have a big inning for us. Trey helped my decision there, and then Brandon had the sacrifice. I was thinking keep hitting the ball, just keep hitting it.”
The Cardinals did exactly what Hayes had hoped, as hit after hit came out of the batter’s box. The inning started off as Trey Lambert hit a hard fly ball into right field for a triple. Brandon Church put down a sacrifice to the first baseman, which brought Lambert in for the first East Wilkes run of the inning. With two outs on the board, and four more runs needed to tie the game, tensions started rising on the field and in the stands.
Ben Longbottom helped the Cardinals ease some of the tension, as he drew a walk to put one runner on base. Next up in the batter’s box was Jared Wood, who put down a hard ground ball to right field to advance the runner and earn a single. With runners on first and second, Sean Sidden stepped up and knocked a fly ball into left field for a double, and advanced Longbottom across the plate. The Cardinals had put two runs on the board for a 5-2 game.
East Wilkes kept up its momentum on the next hit, as Caeden Howell singled to center field on the first pitch to bring two runs into score. Two outs were still on the board, and the Cardinals were now within one run to tie and two runs to take the win. Next in the batter’s box was Bryce Vestal, who did his job by earning a double to left field. Vestal’s double put runners on second and third with Tate Weatherman stepping up to the plate.
On a 1-2 count, Weatherman hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop who fumbled the ball around. Vestal and Couch turned up the heat and booked it around the bases. As the shortstop made the throw to first base, Weatherman was able to outrun the throw and was called safe. The play wasn’t over for the Cardinals, as Deven Couch tied the game and Vestal was able to round third to score the winning run just as Weatherman was called safe.
Weatherman and the Cardinals had successfully put down six runs in the seventh inning to take a dramatic comeback win over Wilkes Central. With the MVAC win, the Cardinals move to 6-7 overall and 4-2 in the MVAC.
“I feel really good about (the win), and I’m very proud of the guys. I’m glad that they can experience successes and get rewarded for their hard work,” said Hayes. “What people don’t see are the hours that are put in at the batting cage, and on the field. To see the guys get rewarded for their work and see them smile and laugh while playing the great game of baseball, that makes it worthwhile for me.”