Game Summaries & Headlines.
They say that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season. That theory proved to be on the money on Tuesday night at the Ballpark @ The Forge. The Stafford Indians had some own-age on the Eagles this year, beating the GREEN in the meaningless pre-season tournament by a score of 2-1 and then again last month the Forge blew a 4-run lead at Stafford and handed the Indians a 7-4 decision. The “good guys” jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the game and actually out hit the Indians in the contest 7-6, but the offense went silent after the second inning and had four costly errors that gift wrapped it for the Indians.
The rubber match on Tuesday took a little longer, saw the Eagles outhit their opponents (9-8) even with a stadium power outage that delayed the game for about 20 minutes in the late innings.
Stafford came into this game unbeaten in the district and wasted no time jumping on Eagle starting pitcher Aiden Henderson for a three spot during their first trips to the dish. Eli Lambros (who had a crucial hit in the last meeting between these two teams) singled to right, and Indian shortstop Tucker Sullivan walked. Stafford starter Mike Tolson grounded out to first to put two runners in scoring position with only one out. Clean-up hitter Tristan McAllister doubled to the gap in left center that drove home both Lambros and Sullivan for the early 2-0 Indian lead. The other McAllister in the Stafford line-up (Caleb) drove his brother home with a single up the middle and the Indians had their 3-0 lead before the Forge came to the plate.
Tolson took the hill for the visitors and held the GREEN in check in the first two innings. The Indians ace dodged a bullet in the second when they left two runners in scoring position (Jordan Tauriac doubled; Tim Chamernik singled) before Henderson went down hacking for the third out to end the threat.
The Eagles would get on the board in the third as second basemen Seth Tootle singled up the middle and Robert Moffett walked. Both runners advanced on a Tolson wild pitch back to the screen, but he would get Jake Wortman swinging for the first out. Aiden Tierney drove a 1-2 pitch from Tolson into right that scored both Tootle and Moffett and the “good guys” were back in it at 3-2 with only one out in the third. When Nate Zimmerman popped up for the second out, Keegan Doyle stepped to the dish. He was left there when Tierney was caught stealing by Indian catcher Joe Tolson and the Forge had to settle for a 3-2 deficit.
Stafford made a statement in their half of the sixth when Caleb McAllister led off the inning with a dart into the right center field gap for a triple, where he would later score on a wild pitch. The Forge made the CALL TO THE BULLPEN in the person of Matt Hickey and he gave up a line drive single to center. When Hickey walked Jordan to put runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out, the Eagles went back to the bullpen phone and dialed up Jordan Tauriac to face Lambros. After both runners moved up on a passed ball, Lambros reached on an error by Robert Moffett, scoring Fuller and sending Jordan to third and gave the Indians a 5-2 lead.
Sullivan would step in next and he grounded into a fielder’s choice but Jordan touched the plate, and Lambros advanced to second and the Indians had their 3-run lead back.
The mini-rally took some of the starch away from the Forge crowd in attendance but the players wearing GREEN would claw back in with a response. Tierney singled to lead off the inning off Stafford reliever Tucker Sullivan, and when Zimmerman got on via error, the Eagles were in business with two on and nobody out. Keegan Doyle would load the bases with a single to left and the game from their got weird. With Tauriac in the box, the lights behind the plate went dark and caused a delay in the proceedings. After about 20 minutes and a Motorola re-set, the game turned into the dark shadows with wild pitches, failed pick off attempts and it allowed the home team back in the game.
The Eagles would take advantage and score two runs on three hits and two walks to cut the Stafford lead to 6-5 at the end of the sixth. Just when you thought BIG MO (momentum) was back in the home dugout, Tauriac hit McAlister leading off and his relief, A.J. Zeak proceeded to plunk Jimmy Baker with a pitch to give the Indians runners at first and second with nobody out.
Zeak took a breath and then sent Fuller and Jordan back to the bat rack and the runners were still there with two outs. In something out of the Twilight Zone, Zeak then hit Lambros in the left bicep and the bases were now loaded with two outs. What in the name of Rod Serling is going on out there was on the minds of both fans watching this threat unfold. The thoughts vanished quickly though as Sullivan hit a fly ball to Tierney in center and it was time for John Belushi to make his first 2019 appearance at The Ballpark @ The Forge.
Sullivan headed back to the mound for the bottom of the seventh and made quick work of Tierney who grounded out to third and Zimmerman who struck out swinging. Doyle stepped in the box with the game on the line and a third straight loss to Stafford in the balance. The Forge first baseman sent a Sullivan 2-2 pitch deep into the Stafford County night. A shot that in the words of actor Kevin Costner in the movie Bull Durham, “anything that travels that far, ought to have a stewardess on it” and tied the game at 6-6 sending this one to extra innings.
The Eagles turned this one to a dub in the home half of the ninth with one out. Tierney sent a fly ball that couldn’t be gathered in by Lambros in center and galloped into scoring position on the miscue. When Zimmerman struck out, Sullivan was staring down at Doyle again with the game on the line. With first base open Sullivan wanted no part of Doyle early and it looked like there wasn't going to be a hittable offering coming. On the 2-0 count Doyle found something he could handle and ripped a seed up the box and into center that scored Tierney, gave the Eagles the win and landed them in a district 1st place tie with Stafford moving forward.
At games end, a Stafford fan was heard to say, “We gave them that game”. Such generosity should not go unrecognized. At the end of the night, you must realize, baseball is like gift cards, you have to cash them in sometime…and the Eagles will take it!