By BILLY HEYEN
GATES, N.Y. — Ryan Ballard batted second in the bottom of the seventh for Greece Post and worked a walk. At that point, his team was down six runs. He’d probably have to get up again for Greece Post to have a shot at winning.
He did come to the plate again. In between Ballard’s first and second plate appearances of the seventh, Greece Post made one out, walked four times, singled twice, doubled once and reached on an error. All that was left was an opportunity for heroics for Ballard with the bases loaded and one out. The count worked its way full and then came a tempting fastball.
“When you see the eye-level fastball, it’s hard,” Ballard said. “Because it just looks so big, you just want to crush it.”
Ballard laid off. Ball four. The improbable comeback for Greece Post was complete.
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) June 13, 2018
Irondequoit Post had dominated six innings of baseball on Wednesday night at Gates-Chili High School. But the domination was all undone by seven runs in the bottom of the seventh, culminating in the walk-off walk, to get Greece Post the 7-6 win. James Huber finished 2-for-4 with a big double in the seventh and Ballard caught three runners stealing in a game where it turned out every Greece Post defensive out mattered.
The first run of the game came for Irondequoit Post in the second inning on a Matt Brennan run-scoring double. He drove in two more in the third on a triple as Irondequoit Post tacked on four more in that frame. From that point on, starter AJ Gartland seemed in control. He had allowed two hits through six. Greece Post coach Dan Ford said his team “came out flat” the first six innings. In the seventh, everything changed.
Greece Post got its third hit of the day when Isaac Yorkey blooped one just out of the third baseman’s reach and into left field to open the seventh. Ballard and Thomas Finnerty followed that with walks. Michael Mule drove in the first run on an infield hit. Jack Berbert drove in another with a hit into right which chased Gartland from the game. After a popout, an error scored another. That’s when Huber stepped in.
“With the momentum there, I’m just looking to eat fastball,” Huber said. “And of course, first pitch he gives you one. Take a good hack at it. Drive it in the gap.”
The lefty Huber smashed it the other way into left center. He made it to third on a throw to the plate as two runs scored to tie the game. Irondequoit Post chose to intentionally walk the next two hitters to set up forces at any base with just one out. Greece Post was 90 feet from an improbable win.
“We just battled back,” Ballard said. “We just kept hitting, kept hitting.”
The only reason the game was suddenly within reach was the standout defense earlier in the day from Greece Post. When the plays were made, they didn’t seem to matter because the deficit was too large. But in the end, they mattered.
After Irondequoit Post had already scored one in the second, Ballard’s rifle to second to end the inning held the visitors in check. In the third, a double steal try was foiled when Ballard gunned down to Finnerty who threw right back home to catch the runner trying to score. That would’ve been another run to make up.
The bases were loaded with one out in the fourth but Greece Post starter Connor Hong escaped with a strikeout on his curveball followed by a popout. Victor Torres started the fifth with a backhand snag and cannon from deep in the hole at shortstop to stop any more runs before they started.
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) June 13, 2018
Ballard caught another runner stealing to end the top of the seventh. His arm, and the rest of Greece Post’s ability to make plays in a game that felt like it could be a blowout as early as the third inning, were the reasons Ballard had his chance to win it.
Greece Post had dropped both games of a doubleheader on the weekend. But the team came together as the sun set on Wednesday evening. Ballard thinks it’s exactly what the group needed.
“It brings the guys together,” Ballard said. “The doubleheader that we dropped both two, it kind of split us as a team. But as we got this team win, I think going forward we’ll have a lot more nights like this.”