After both starting pitchers retired all batters faced in the first it seemed as if the rematch between SLA and Lincoln would be a pitcher's duel. But Senior Ijustice Avery had something different in mind. After patiently working a full count Justice finally got "his pitch" and drilled a towering shot to dead center. Lincoln's starter whipped around quickly, as did their outfielders, and then they all just watched it clear the fence for a lead-off Home Run. Avery quietly, yet confidently rounded the bases while the entire SLA bench came out to greet him as he touched down on home. In a season full of close games that haven't always gone the Rockets' way, a rare moment of pure elation came over the squad and silenced Lincoln's boisterous bench.
In the 2nd starting pitcher Freshman Vince Cammisa and the SLA defense pulled off a gem of a 1-2-3 Double Play to get out of a bases loaded jam on a hit back to Vince who came home for the force. Avi's throw and Leo Cassel-Siskind's scoop beat the runner to end the inning. In the top of the 3rd Cammisa worked a Walk, advanced to 2nd on a Passed Ball, stole third and scored on Avi Cantor's deep Sac Fly to make it 2-0. A couple of solid hits in the 3rd helped Lincoln make it 2-1, but Freshman Cam Simms's Double in the 4th scored Sophomore David Hammond to make it 3-1.
Both pitchers and defenses bent but didn't break over the next two frames, until Lincoln broke through with a pair of runs on hard ground balls to tie it up at 3-3. The sixth and seventh innings were tense. Both squads put runners in scoring position and tried to rattle the relievers, but golden opportunities fell short and the game went into extra innings.
It's fitting that Ijustice Avery would start it off again, this time with a rope of a single to center, then reliever David Hammond made a productive out, essentially bunting Justice over into scoring position. Patience in moments like these are a premium, but freshmen Cam Simms, Jakob Cantor and Junior Leo Cassel-Siskind all showed they had plenty working deep counts, with Jakob and Leo drawing critical Walks to load the bases.
AND HERE IT IS. EVERY KID’S BASEBALL DREAM:
Extra Innings, bases loaded, two outs, your team's season essentially on the line.
Regardless of what happens, moments like these are remembered for a lifetime, playing out over and over again in glorious memories or haunting nightmares. But Senior Alex Gomez didn't over think and just turned on the first pitch he saw, driving a laser beam into the right center gap, clearing the bases. And there it was again, that collective pure joy that has eluded this squad in moments just like this in recent weeks.
With the top of the order coming up Lincoln's coach didn't risk any more runs and lifted his pitcher for the starter the Rockets had previously faced. The switch didn't work out as Senior Tony Brown hit a hard grounder and beat out a throw for an infield single. Starter Vince Cammisa helped his own cause with a double to score Tony. Two pitches later he stole third and scored on a passed ball. Suddenly a tense, 3-3 nail-biter had transformed into a lopsided 9-3 affair.
But just as quickly as SLA could start to celebrate Lincoln scrapped back with three runs on four consecutive singles and two wild pitches to make it 9-6 with no outs recorded. Suddenly those extra runs off Cammisa's double and aggressive base-running was the difference in the game. But Freshman Jakob Cantor showed composure, attacking the next two hitters and striking out both. With a runner on 3rd and the top of the order coming up Cantor looked determined to shut the door. Then just as he was about to deliver he caught the runner on 3rd off guard and instigated a textbook run-down to end the game.
With the 9-6 win the Rockets split the season series with Lincoln and further prove that this City Championship is up for grabs. Just two games remain vs Masterman to round out the season. Wins in both will secure a top-seeded finish for the Rockets and a home playoff game in Mt. Airy on Mon, May 21st.
NEXT UP: SENIOR DAY & BRANDON WILLIAMS'S #16 RETIREMENT (Fri, 5/11 230p)
The first of a Home-and-Home series vs Masterman, will follow with first pitch at 315pm.
Come out and support your SLA Rockets as they press for another run at a City Title.