A spurt of seventh-inning hitting helped the Heritage Patriots varsity baseball team hold on to its third place region ranking Wednesday night against rival Salem, scoring six runs in the final frame in an 8-4 region win over the Seminoles.
The Patriots used three base knocks, a trio of walks and smart base running to best the Seminoles who fell to 2-7 in the region after the loss. Heritage improved to 12-6 overall and 8-3 in Region 8-AAAAA.
Trailing 3-2 entering the top of the seventh inning, the Patriots drew back-to-back walks to start the frame, and a bases-loaded blast from pinch hitter Austin New gave Heritage the go-ahead score in the four-run victory.
“I’m very proud of our guys tonight,” Heritage coach Jason Borcherding said. “We hung in there and hung in there and finally got the breaks we needed. It started with a pair of unselfish players drawing walks and we were able to get things going from there.
“Our approach at the start of the game wasn’t a very good one and (Rocky) Mauriello was able to keep us off balance,” he said. “We have the capability to score, but it was just getting our approach right later in the game. We settled in, our approach changed and we got back to doing what we normally do.”
Heritage’s Ryan Sutton picked up the win in relief of starter Domenic Bazzani, pitching 1 1/3 innings while giving up just one run on three base hits. Bazanni left the game tied 2-2, eventually giving up three earned runs in five innings of work on five hits with six strikeouts.
Salem’s Ryan Reed took the loss on the mound in relief of Mauriello, surrendering six runs to the Patriots on three hits and a walk in 2/3 innings. Mauriello allowed three runs on three hits in six innings before bowing out of the game after allowing a lead-off walk in the seventh.
Heritage’s comeback began with back-to-back walks to Anthony Williams and Sutton, bringing up designated hitter Tyler Holcombe who already had an RBI earlier in the contest on a sac-bunt.
Holcombe laid down another bunt to the Seminoles’ Cary Campbell, advancing the runner, but Campbell’s throw to first base missed its mark, loading the bases.
New capitalized on the Patriots’ next at-bat, slapping a single through the center of Salem’s defense, scoring Williams and Sutton.
“That hit was huge,” Borcherding said. “We have a team mentality, and, as cliché as it is, it’s the next man mentality. He stepped up when he needed to and made a play.”
The base knock gave Heritage a 4-3 lead, but the Patriots weren’t done scoring just yet.
Isreal Zackery followed New with another single, plating Holcombe, and after the Patriots tried to catch Zackery stealing second, New touched home, crossing the plate before the Seminoles’ throw home.
A Justin Roberson sac-bunt plated Zackery and Freddy Bryant reached the plate after a walk on a George Mall single, extending Heritage’s lead to 8-3 entering the bottom of the seventh.
Salem attempted a late comeback bid, trimming Heritage’s lead to 8-4 on a one-out Jason Howell sac-fly that scored Yorel James, but Matt Studdard forced Braxton Hogan into a game-ending groundout, preserving the win.
Salem struck first in the opening frame, going up 1-0 on a Tiwuan Head double off the left field wall. Heritage evened the game in the third inning on Holcombe’s sac-bunt before taking a 2-1 advatage in the sixth on a Salem fielding error.
The Seminoles fought back in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game on a Jordan Johnson double to right field before pinch hitter Akil Baddoo gave Salem a 3-2 lead on a single to center that scored Johnson.
Johnson and Head finished with two hits apiece for the Seminoles in the loss, while six different Patriots notched hits in the win.
Both teams return to action Friday night, this time at Danny Blue Field at Heritage, for the regular season series finale. Game time is set for 5:55.