Yes, officially it was a "walk-off" win for the Angelina College Roadrunners.
But it was more like a "slide-off."
Kyler Crenshaw scored from third on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning to give AC a 4-3 win and a split with the Paris Dragons Wednesday at Roadrunner Field in the conference opener for both teams. Earlier, the 'Runners dropped a 10-7 decision to the Dragons.
The Roadrunners scored two runs in their last at-bat, with Ryan Gunhouse reaching on a one-out single and Crenshaw beating out a bunt for another hit. Chris Jones reached on a fielder's choice in which all AC runners were safe, and Andy Dewey's RBI groundout scored Gunhouse with the tying run. After an intentional walk to Greg Garcia to load the bases with two down – and with the Dragon infield playing back – Kenny Allison squared to bunt; the pitch from Paris reliever Justin Scharf sailed high, going off the glove of catcher Devin Avery. Crenshaw's headfirst slide across the plate gave the 'Runners the 4-3 win.
"The way (Scharf) was throwing, Kenny had better odds of dropping down a bunt and beating it out than he did getting a solid hit," AC head coach Jeff Livin said. "Scharf is one of the best short relievers we'll see all season, and the odds were against going with anything conventional. We called for the bunt, seeing the infield back and knowing Kenny's got great speed, and it worked out for us."
Crenshaw's run gave AC reliever Nick Wright the win after Wright held the Dragons scoreless over the final two innings. John Tatum, the starter, pitched a solid game, allowing three runs in seven innings. Tatum gave up seven hits and struck out three, a much-needed effort after the 'Runner pitching staff gave up 10 runs in the opener.
"John and Nick did a great job keeping us in the game," Livin said. "Nick doesn't have the big name as a reliever yet, but he matched their guy pitch for pitch. I was impressed."
Paris took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with a pair of singles followed by a pair of walks, with Phil Delisle drawing a free pass with the bases loaded. In the third, the Dragons extended their lead to 3-0 on two-out, bloop double from Gavin Gray followed by a two-run homer from Brian Wuest.
But Tatum settled in afterward, retiring nine of the next 11 batters he faced. Wright came on in the eighth, allowing a walk and a single in his two innings. AC cut the Paris lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning on an RBI single from D.D. Lott; and the 'Runners polished off the win with Crenshaw's run in the ninth.
In the opener, Paris jumped out to quick two-run lead on Gray's first-inning, two-run homer to left. The Dragons picked up three more runs in the third on an RBI single from Craig Whiteside and a two-RBI double from Andy Lalumandier. Rodney Garza drove in two more in the sixth with a single to right, and the Dragons appeared on the verge of knocking AC out via the 10-run mercy rule.
But the Roadrunner bats exploded for a seven-run sixth inning, with Gunhouse drilling a two-run double to the wall in left, and Garcia, Allison, Grant Clyde and Andy Dewey driving in runs with singles. Scharf then came out of the bullpen for Paris and kept the Roadrunners scoreless over the final inning and a third.
"Our hitters were just trying to do something they don't normally do in trying to pull the ball all game long instead of going with the pitch," Livin said. "The Paris hitters were doing what we normally do, until Nick (Wright) got them off-balance long enough for us to rally."