IN the final second of the bottom of the ninth, it was if a dam broke and sent a sea of red jerseys flooding onto Shaw Park field.
The cause: a beautiful hit by catcher Luis Alen, one that sailed into right field and landed smack in the dead zone between outfielders and infielders, allowing Josh Mazzola to race home and win the game after trailing for so long. As the Winnipeg Goldeyes rushed together, elation at their walk-off win shot all through with relief, the crowd roared. They'd been waiting to cheer that loud, in a game that often left them little to be excited about.
See, for the first four innings, the Fish had registered only one lonely base hit, a fourth-inning swat from shortstop Nick Liles. They wouldn't make a run until the seventh, when Josh Mazzola doubled to get on base then scampered home when catcher Luis Alen blasted the ball into left field. Saints outfielder Willie Cabrera slammed into the wall trying to catch it and it flew out of his glove, allowing Mazzola to make the run even with two outs on the board.
But solid pitching kept the Goldeyes within striking distance, and in the final frame they came through: Casey Haerther singled to get a man on base. Mazzola walked to push pinch-runner Jordan Guida deeper. Then outfielder Fehlandt Lentini whacked out a single to let Guida score, and the Fish were on their way to win.
Luis Alen hit when it mattered. His first two at-bats went nowhere, but his seventh-inning double scored Mazzola to put him on the board, and his ninth-inning single batted Mazzola in again to push the Fish to victory.
Towering starting pitcher Peter Gehle fought to keep the score within the reach of the Fish's struggling order. He finished having given up six hits in 7.2 innings worth of work. Out of the bullpen, Chris Kissock and Allen Caldwell combined to give up zero hits in the remaining time.
óó KEY PLAY
Fish veteran outfielder Fehlandt Lentini thrives on pressure, and it rarely comes any tigher than this: in the ninth, with the Fish down 2-1, he went up to the plate. Casey Haerther had gotten on base with a single, and pitcher Matt Meyer walked Mazzola, so Lentini had a chance.
After a nod from Goldeyes manager Rick Forney, Lentini tried for a bunt. But when the first pitch his way was deemed a strike, he changed his mind. "I was just like, see if you can get it as deep as you can, put a good swing on it," he said, and watched as his single scored Guida and loaded the bases up. "It all worked out. Once they were loaded with no-one out, I knew it was over. It was awesome."
Though those final at-bats were exciting, the Goldeyes don't want to win every game this way, Lentini agreed. Still, a silver lining: "It definitely gives your team confidence when you know you can go into the late innings being down, and you can come back."
óó ON THE HOOK
The Goldeyes continue their home series against the Saints on Thursday and Friday nights. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. .