By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- Mac Hudgins was running for his life.
The New Market outfielder had just hit a walk-off single to give the Rebels a 5-4, 10-inning win over Strasburg in Valley Baseball League action Wednesday. Hudgins quickly realized that anyone who hits a walk-off hit gets a pie of shaving cream in the face. Hudgins tried to run away from his teammates, but by the time he reached the outfield they caught up to him.
"I forgot about that [tradition]," said Hudgins, with shaving cream still on his face. "I realized it when I saw them coming. I dodged a few, but they caught me eventually."
Hudgins' hit capped off a thrilling comeback for the Rebels, who trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the ninth.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th, Jeff Heisey drew a one-out walk from Strasburg reliever Adam Cherry. Garrett Boulware then doubled down the left-field line. After the Express intentionally walked Pat Porter to load the bases, Kevin DeFillippinis hit a sacrifice fly to score Heisey and tie the game at 4-4.
Hudgins then singled to give the Rebels the win.
"I just wanted to put the ball in play and hope for the best," Hudgins said. "I was able to poke it out there and get the run across."
The Express (10-22) seemed to have the game well in hand entering the bottom of the ninth with a three-run lead. New Market's Jaren Sustar drew a one-out walk off of Strasburg reliever Baron Davis. Hudgins followed with a single. Cherry came on in relief of Davis to face Matt Ford, who drilled a 2-0 pitch over the fence for a three-run homer.
"I just wanted to hit it hard in play," Ford said. "It was a good feeling, to be able to drive those runs."
The Express battled back in the top of the 10th to retake the lead. Josh Gardiner's one-out single got the Express started. Jay Lizanich hit into a fielder's choice, and Zach Wiley drew a walk from New Market reliever Kyle Ward. Terry McClinton followed with an RBI single to give the Express the lead.
Unfortunately for the Express it was short-lived.
"This one is tough to swallow," Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said. "We just need to be able to put teams away."
Both starting pitchers threw solid games. Strasburg's Matt Solter pitched six stellar innings. He struck out four and allowed only three hits. New Market's Cam Ward threw five innings, allowing only three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts.
Strasburg took the lead in the top of the fourth. Lizanich led off with a single and Wiley reached on a bunt single. A wild throw on a pickoff attempt by New Market catcher Boulware looked like it was going to be costly for the Rebels. However, centerfielder Heisey was able to get to the ball quickly and threw out Wiley before he could back to first.
McClinton followed with an RBI single. McClinton was then caught stealing second. George Smith homered over the left-field fence to give the Express a 2-0 lead.
The Express added another run in the top of the fifth. Billy Motroni singled with one out. One out later, Motroni stole second. Lizanich followed with an RBI single to give the Express a 3-0 lead.
The Express were led by Smith, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double. Erik Armstrong went 4-for-4 at the plate for the Express, while McClinton had two singles and two RBIs.
"I was happy with how the guys battled back [in the 10th]," Barnes said. "Some of the guys that came up there, were guys that hadn't been hitting as well. We needed them to get 'em on and get 'em over and they did that.
"New Market is a good team, take nothing away from them. We just needed to execute better."
The Rebels (15-15) were led by Hudgins, Heisey and T.J. Kuban with two hits each. New Market manager John Combs said it's the fourth or fifth walk-off win the Rebels have had this season.
"We seem to have some sort of magic here at home, and hopefully we can keep it going," Combs said. "We started the season 0-8, and we battled back to 8-8. These kids just don't give up. They're a good group of kids, and they always feel like they have a chance to win."