It was rather unconventional, but Triton managed to walk off against Lee County on Thursday, as Colton Neighbors was struck by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth to give the Hawks the 5-4 win on senior night.
“After the game, I said it was probably not two of our best-looking ball games (Triton beat Union Pines 9-5 at home on Wednesday), as far as it being clean all the way around,” said Triton coach Joey Miriello. “But good teams find a way to win, and that’s two nights in a row where we’ve found a way to win. As long as we keep winning, I don’t care how ugly it is.”
Triton had to go deep into its pitching staff, using four different pitchers to get through the game. Freshman Hayden Pope closed out the final two innings to secure the win for the Hawks (10-4, 6-2).
“It was kind of big that we came out with that win,” Miriello said. “Once we went to Hayden, we kind of said, ‘All right, we’re going to go all-in on this ball game to make sure we get the win and we’ll worry about tomorrow’s ball game tomorrow.’ This game was just as important as [Friday’s] game [against Union Pines], as far as conference standings, so we wanted to get it.”
The Hawks’ staff was able to work out of several jams. The Yellow Jackets loaded the bases five different times and stranded a total of 17 runners on base.
“We always say, ‘Minimize the damage,’” Miriello said. “When we get runners on, we want to minimize the damage. There’s a chance we might give up a run, but let’s not make it four. Let’s minimize the damage as much as we can and give us a chance to stay in the ball game.”
Offensively, the Hawks were able to get the job done. Christian Tyndall led Triton with three hits, including a double and two runs scored. Dalen Thompson had two hits. Neighbors had a double, two RBIs and a run scored. Parker Crews had one hit and one run scored. Grayson Bradham had one hit. Austin Riewestahl scored once.
Triton scored its first four runs all in the bottom of the second. After falling behind 1-0 in the first, Crews and Tyndall led off the second with back-to-back singles, and Godwin bunted them over into scoring position. Both runners scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Riewestahl drew a walk, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Neighbors, who promptly stole third and scored on another wild pitch to make it 4-1.
Lee County got a run back in the fourth to make it 4-2, and then capitalized on a bases-loaded opportunity to tie it up 4-4 in the seventh. The Hawks failed to score in the bottom half, sending the game into extra innings. The Yellow Jackets again loaded the bases with one out after a trio of walks, but Pope was able to settle down. He induced an infield pop up and struck a batter out looking to keep the game tied.
Tyndall led off the bottom of the eighth with a huge double. Lee County intentionally walked Pope, and after a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, opted to walk Riewestahl to load the bases. Neighbors stepped in with one out and took a pitch in the side to give the Hawks the 5-4 win.
After the game, Miriello commended his six seniors: Neighbors, Riewestahl, Godwin, Crews, Bert Strickland and Colby Norris.
“These seniors have been through it all with me,” Miriello said. “They’ve been through success, they’ve been through failure, and now we’re back to success. At no time during any of those seasons did their attitude or work ethic ever waver. They were always committed to doing whatever they could to help us win, 100 percent of the time. A lot of our success this year, in my opinion, is due to the senior leadership that we’ve had this year. I think it’s been one of our best assets.”