Jammer reliever Jose Rodriguez couldn’t have dreamt up a worse situation to be in. Tie game with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourteenth inning and one out. The Scrappers would only need one hit to win. Or a sacrifice fly, or a walk, or a passed ball, or even a balk. Just something, anything to end the fourteen-inning marathon.
The man tasked with making that something happen was Juan Romero. Romero had had a night to forget, as he was already 0-5 with three strikeouts. In fact, Romero hadn’t even got a ball past the infield dirt. But he was the guy, and just one hit could change the tone of his night.
Romero quickly found himself up 2-0. But then a strike and foul tip evened the count just as fast. “Slider,” somebody in the pressroom remarked. “He’s getting a slider. “ The premonition was dead on. Rodriguez rocked and fired and delivered that slider to the inside part of the plate against Romero, a hitter notorious for struggling to hit breaking balls. He didn’t lay off the pitch, connecting with a sharp grounder to the left side. Had the infield not been playing in, it may have turned into an inning ending double play. As it stood, the ball found enough room to squirt between the shortstop and third baseman, allowing Joe Sever to cruise home with the winning run.
It’s probably a good thing the game finally ended when it did, too, because it’s certain that Eastwood Field couldn’t have held the pressure that the game generated for much longer. Romero’s single was just the last in a long series of high stakes moments the game delivered.
Way back in the first inning, it looked like the Scrappers would take an early lead, as Andrew Campbell and Joey Wendle both singled with one out. Then Sever stepped in and fought off a pitch the other way that appeared to catch chalk down the first base line. Instead, it was ruled a foul ball. Had it stood, the Scrappers would have taken an early 1-0 lead
The Jammers actually did get on the board in the second, when Yeison Hernandez ripped an RBI double off of starter Jacob Lee to take a 1-0 advantage. The Scrappers answered back in the fourth, when Joe Sever had an RBI double of his own to even thecontest. Then it was like the game turned into a reenactment of WW1, with long bouts of non-action broken by bursts of intensity.
Jamestown had one of those bursts of action in the fifth, when it looked all but certain that they would pick up a run off of Geoffrey Davenport, who relieved Lee after the third. They led off the inning with a pair of singles, and both runners moved up a base on a groundout. Davenport elected to intentionally walk Matt Juengel with two-outs to load the bases. The decision paid off, as Davenport was able to induce a groundout to end the inning.
The Scrappers had a big moment themselves in the sixth, when they were able to get a man to third with two outs. They were unable to convert, however. Then came what may have been one of the biggest moments of the night in the top of the seventh. Davenport allowed a single and a walk to put two men on with one out. He was then pulled in favor of Michael Peoples, who made the situation even worse for himself by throwing a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance a base. With the runner at third and the infield in, batter Matt Juengel ripped a ball to third baseman Erik Gonzalez, who fielded it cleanly and fired perfect strike to cut down the potential go-ahead run at the plate. Peoples then induced a groundout to complete the impossible escape.
The biggest chance the Scrappers had to end the game came in the ninth. Jeremy Lucas reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on a balk, and reached third on a wild pitch with two outs, but it was none other than Juan Romero striking out that ended the threat.
As it turned out, Romero would have his chance at redemption in the fourteenth. Joey Wendle ignited the really with a leadoff double. Sever was plunked for the second time to put runners on first and second. Evan Frazar attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but it was right back at pitcher Jose Rodriguez, who was able to get an easy force at third to keep runners at first and second. It didn’t last, however, as he promptly threw a wild pitch to allow the runners to move up anyway. Rodriguez then walked Jeremy Lucas to load the bases and set the stage for Romero.
“It was a good win,” said Wendle, who finished 2-6 including the rally-starting double. “We came through in the end because we were very persistent. [Romero] was 0-5 with three strikeouts, but he came through with the biggest hit of the game. There’s a lot of mental toughness there.”
It was Romero who came through with the game-winning hit, but the MVP’s of the contest probably came from his bullpen, who combined to throw eleven innings of shutout baseball. After Davenport and Peoples, Jack Wagoner and Rafael Homblert each threw three scoreless innings to give the Scrappers chance after chance until they were finally able to break through.
“They were phenomenal,” said Wendle of the ‘pen. “We gave up a run in the second inning, but then out bullpen was just awesome the whole game. You can’t ask for anything more. Every guy that came in did his job to perfection.”
Homblert picked up the win in the contest, his second of the year. Rodriguez took the loss. If fourteen innings weren’t enough for the Scrappers and Jammers, they’ll get a chance to see each other again tomorrow, as they finish up their two-game set at 7:05.