By Steve Peterson
It was just past 11:00 p.m. when Spenser Wardrip slid into home plate untouched with the game-winning run for Akron-Westfield’s baseball team in a wild 16-15, nine inning, three-hour War Eagle Conference game June 3 against Spalding Catholic.
Later in the week, the game became one for the memory books as, at the next contest, fans would say, “You missed a great one.”
The Westerners were behind 15-12 to enter the ninth inning but rallied for four runs to improve their record to 6-3.
Caleb Colt had the game-winning single. The Westerners made the rally on their team speed, a couple of Spalding Catholic errors or missed plays and singles.
A-W’s Dylan Irizarry walked to start the inning. A-W was down to its final out when Cory Eskra, who had a monster home run for a 12-12 tie in the seventh inning, singled, followed by an RBI hit by Chet Willer and one from Gregg Taylor. A key Spalding error (A-W had several, too) kept the Westerners’ hopes alive.
“It shows a lot. It feels good to win it but we put ourselves in this position with too many mental errors. We can live with the physical errors but not the mental ones,” said A-W Coach Gordy Johnson.
The Spartans are in their final summer as an independent school. They will be part of Gehlen Catholic in Le Mars this fall, and the Granville squad took the first lead of the game at 4-0 after one-half inning. It grew to 6-0 in the second inning.
A-W had rally No. 1 in the third inning. Devon Myers led off with a single, Cole Oltmanns walked, and Eskra had an RBI double. Willer reached on an error that scored two runs and Taylor had an RBI single for a 6-4 deficit. Colt singled and Aaron Allard walked to load the bases. Austin Allard then tied the game with an RBI walk.
Myers, at-bat for the second time in the inning, ripped an RBI single for a tie score. Oltmanns singled and an error brought home two more runs for an 8-6 A-W lead.
The Spartans closed the gap to 8-7 but Aaron Allard came through with an RBI single after Taylor led off the A-W fourth with a double. The third out was made at home on a double play.
A-W had its challenges on defense this game, including multiple errors and a miss-played run down play but came through with a strike out, throw out double play in the Spalding fifth.
Spalding used the home run ball to gain a 9-9 tie in the sixth inning and eventually led 12-9 as the Spartans scored five runs after one out.
Aaron Allard singled to start the seventh inning and Irizarry was hit by a pitch. After an out, Oltmanns had an RBI single for a 12-10 deficit. Still, A-W was down to its final out when Eskra stepped to the plate. The senior sent a home run deep over the left field fence for a two-run home run to keep the Westerners alive. There would be, as the A-W bench proclaimed, “bonus baseball” or extra innings.
Neither team scored in the eighth inning.
Spalding Catholic seemed to secure the win again with a seven-at-bat, top of the ninth inning for a 15-12 lead.
The Westerners had other ideas this Monday night, staging an improbable comeback and the lights at Sargent Field did not go off, ending the day at about midnight as indeed the Westerners “took care of business” as the song blared just after the win.