Sectional drama: Warren rallies in top of 7th to beat Athens, 5-4
By Mike Morrison
The Marietta Times
THE PLAINS – Legendary New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once coined the phrase, “It ain’t over till its over.”
Those words were never more true than Thursday night when with their backs planted firmly against the wall the Warren Warriors rallied in the seventh inning to stun the Athens Bulldogs 5-4 in a sectional final at Athens High School.
The Warriors (13-9) allowed Athens to score four unearned runs in the last of the sixth inning to snap a scoreless tie only to rally for five runs of their own in the top of the seventh with two men out and no one on base to grab the victory and eliminate the Bulldogs (16-9).
“It was just a great baseball game,” said Warren head coach Mark Farr of the Warrior victory. “I’ll play 10 games like that with a great team like them (Athens) everyday.”
After a lengthy rain delay moved the game under the lights, starting pitchers Alex Staron for Athens and Danny Pannell for the Warriors hooked up in quite a pitchers duel as neither pitcher allowed a run through the first five innings of play.
The Warriors only threat through the first five innings came in the fourth inning when Gunnar Smith and David Ryan collected back-to-back singles with two out but were left stranded when Staron got left fielder Zach McKenna to pop out to second base to stifle the rally.
Pannell held Athens in check as the Warrior right hander did not allow more than one Athens base runner in any of the first five innings.
Staron allowed a two-out double to right field by Warrior third baseman Garrett Kennedy in the sixth but once again was able to escape unscathed, sending the game to the bottom of the sixth still scoreless.
The Dogs finally snapped the tie in the last of the sixth as they took advantage of a suddenly wild Pannell and some less than spectacular Warrior defense.
Leadoff batter Tyler McDade led off the inning by drawing a base-on-balls and Staron’s attempt at a sacrifice bunt turned into one of the key plays of the game.
Pannell bounced off of the mound to field the bunt and threw high to first base to allow Staron to reach base.
It appeared the Warriors caught a huge break when Staron over ran first base but McDade broke to third and the Warriors botched the ensuing rundown to allow both Athens runners to move into scoring position.
With the Warrior defense playing in, Tanner Wood grounded sharply to Warren shortstop Ethan Estes who looked the runner back to third and retired Wood at first for the first out.
Jared Elmore followed with another groundball to short, but this time McDade broke for home and slid in just ahead of the tag to make it a 1-0 game.
A Pannell wild pitch made it 2-0 and Sawyer Summers, who collected all three Athens hits in the game, laced a single to right field to give Athens a four run lead heading to the final frame.
Staron retired the first two Warrior hitters in the seventh and appeared to be poised to close out the Warren season before Blake Kidder and Riley Bobo came up with back-to-back singles to keep the Big Blue hopes alive.
Justin Hill followed with a walk to load the bases and Lance Schafer managed to work Staron for another base on balls to force in the first Warrior run of the game.
Staron got ahead of Estes 0-2 but the Warren shortstop dropped a single into left field to cut the lead to 4-2.
Kennedy then stepped to the plate a lofted a high fly ball to right field that bounced in and out of the glove of the Athens right fielder to allow all three Warren baserunners to score and give the Warriors the 5-4 lead.
Athens had one last shot at the Warriors in the last of the seventh and sure enough made things interesting as they loaded the bases with just one out.
Staron walked and Wood was hit by a pitch forcing Farr to make a pitching change and bring in Justin Hill to try and close out the game.
The Warrior lefty got Elmore to hit a grounder to shortstop but Estes was unable to make the play and all hands were safe.
Ryan Luerhman followed with a line drive to right field that was not deep enough to score Staron and Hill induced Kyle McCarthy to foul out to the catcher and secure the miraculous Warrior victory.
“Danny (Pannell) kind of ran out of gas there at the end and Justin (Hill) came in and did the job like he has done all year,” said Farr. “We kind of made a few mistakes to let them to get out ahead, but we fought and won it.”
Farr was in attendance last weekend when the Marietta College Pioneers rallied from three runs down in the 13th inning to win and used that comeback as an example when giving a late game pep talk to his club.
“They (MC) didn’t quit in the 13th and I told them that I watched a ballgame last weekend where a team came back from three runs down to win,” said Farr. “I said just one time this year let’s fight and be proud and they did it.”