By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy baseball coach Bobby Wheelock normally wouldn't have had much to smile about after a game like Monday's home matchup against Grace (Md.) Academy.
The Patriots threw "normal" right out the window in the eighth inning of a zany 10-9 extra-inning victory.
"That was one crazy game," Wheelock said, a relieved grin escaping just before darkness set in Monday.
Crazy as it gets, at least in the bottom of the eighth. That's when the Patriots rallied back from a one-run deficit to tie the game for the second straight inning. Samantha Yarnall led off with a double down the left-field line, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Tyler Fincham's RBI single.
Straight-forward enough, right? Madison Brewer followed with an infield single, then Grace Academy elected to walk Min Young Jung to set up a force play at any base.
Then it got bizarre. Jung, playing organized baseball for the first time this season, took off from first base on a steal attempt. About three-quarters of the way to second, he realized Brewer was already there. Jung commenced beating a hasty retreat to first, but looked like a sure out when the Knights catcher fired a throw back to first base. Instead, the throw sailed into right field and Fincham trotted home to score the winning run.
This, after SVCA (3-4) seemed to do all it could to hand the victory away. The Patriots committed 11 errors in all, many coming on errant throws.
"We've kind of been dealing with the errors all year," Wheelock said.
Despite the frequent miscues, the Patriots had a solid two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Reliever Lucas Pufnock, who at one point fanned seven straight Knights after coming on in the fourth inning, ran into big trouble in the seventh. Mack Cole led off the inning by reaching on an error and Cole Helman followed with a single. Cole scored on a passed ball, and Harry Barger's single plated Helman to tie the game. Another error, this one a throw from the outfield, allowed Barger to move all the way to third on the play and he scored on Eli Gaylor's infield single.
The Patriots stayed alive in the bottom of the frame when courtesy runner Jordan Emswiller scored on a wild pitch to force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Grace got a two-out rally going against Patriots pitcher Madison Brewer, in for his second stint after pitching the first three innings. Helman drew a walk and Barger followed with a single to right that got past the outfielder. Starting from first, Helman dashed for home to try to score the go-ahead run. The throw home beat him by a good 15 feet, but was dropped for yet another error.
That just set up an even more bizarre ending, ultimately a happy one for the Patriots.
Brewer ended up with the win, working four innings in all. He and Pufnock (nine strikeouts in four innings) had to work much harder than necessary due to SVCA's sketchy defense.
"You get frustrated at times when you know outs should have been made and we didn't make them," Brewer said. "I just try to worry about the next batter."
Helman finished with three hits, and Barger and Josiah House (three RBIs) added two hits each for Grace Academy (1-3).
Matt Rogers, Jacob Heflin and Brewer led the Patriots with two hits apiece. The Patriots drew nine walks, were twice hit by pitches and capitalized on seven errors by the Knights.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>