With his team down three runs and only nine outs remaining to get them, Napoleon baseball coach Jason Holubik pointed to the motto printed on his t-shirt, “Find a Way,” and told his team to “make something happen.”
What followed was a four-run rally, culminating in a two-run bottom of the seventh as Napoleon came from behind for an 8-7 win over Allen East Wednesday at Booster Field.
“I’m really happy with this win,” Holubik said. “We were able to put the ball in play and put a little pressure on them. Their kid was really good on the mound tonight, with his knuckleball. He did a good job of keeping us off balanced, but we battled back and that was the biggest thing.”
The Mustangs jumped out in the top of the first, getting a run on a sacrifice fly to center field, but Napoleon responded when Jarrett Gerdeman scored on a throwing error to tie the game. The Cats took the lead one batter later when Seth Muncy ripped a single to score Carter Burken from second and go up 2-1.
Allen East plated three in the top of the second to take a 4-2 lead, paced by two run-scoring hits, before the Cats put together a rally of their own, capitalizing on two infield errors to score twice and knot the game at 4-all.
Both the top of the first and top of the second innings were started by walks.
“(Napoleon starter) Blake Wolf usually pounds the zone,” Holubik said. “He was struggling a little bit today, but I liked how we picked Blake up. Carter came out and pitched strong and then Seth was outstanding.”
The Mustangs were held in check by Burken in the top of the third before erupting for three runs in the top of the fourth to seize control at 7-4.
After the Cats were blanked in the bottom of the frame, Holubik said, is when the comeback started.
“I just wanted the guys to keep being aggressors at the plate,” Holubik said. “Momentum in the later innings is so huge, so we had to put the ball in play to make things happen, and I think we did a good job of competing and fighting until the end.”
Napoleon got one run in the bottom of the fifth and had scored another in the bottom of the sixth on a single from Wolf when it looked, for a moment, like the Cats might take the lead right then.
Garrett Burkey ripped a ball to the warning track in left field with runners on second and third and two outs, but the Allen East outfielder was camped under it for the third out, ending the threat.
After Muncy worked out of a first-and-second jam with one out in the top half, striking out one and inducing a fly ball to center, the Cats got to work in the bottom of the seventh, getting Lukas Prigge and Blake Buehrer on via the free pass to start the frame.
Zack Rosebrook then laid down a perfect squeeze bunt down the first base line, reaching safely when no Allen East defender covered the bag.
Gerdeman took a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 7-all the next at bat before Caden Miller bounced a ball to first that was bobbled on the throw home for the walk-off win.
Muncy got the win for the Cats after notching perhaps the biggest strikeout of the game in the seventh.
Napoleon (4-4) travels to Memorial Park to take on Archbold tonight at 7. The game is a rematch of a June 23 meeting between the Cats and Streaks, a 6-5 win for Napoleon.
“I always like going up to Memorial Park and playing against Archbold, even if I do have some mixed memories there,” Holubik joked. “Any opportunity to play against Archbold and Coach (Dick) Selgo is great, and especially this summer, you have to take advantage of every game. It should be a beautiful night for baseball.”