“I’m very proud of my guys,” head coach Will Ramos said. “They didn’t give up. This is a team that showed a lot of effort and a lot of battle at the end. All four of our wins have been won by relievers and we’ve won three in the last inning. We did it yesterday, we did it today; that is a good team right there (IUSE), so I’m very proud of them.”
The win helped the team to a 2-2 series split with two doubleheaders played on Friday and Saturday. The back-to-back weekend doubleheaders marked TC’s first home games of the season. Despite chilly temperatures in the low 40s, there was a sizable crowd.
“I want to just say thank you because today was a packed house with the community that came to show support for the baseball team and due to the weather, I’m very proud and want to thank them,” Ramos said. “I saw others, including some of the administration, so we were very happy with the amount of people here today.”
The Tornadoes used a huge bottom half of the seventh inning to gain the win. Will Thompson opened the bottom half of the inning by striking out swinging.
The next batter, catcher Denio Rondon, began the rally by hitting a single into left field. Jesus Rosario took his spot at first base as the pinch-runner, which proved to be an effective on the following at-bat. Austin Drummonds hit a chopper to shallow third base. Third baseman Brandon Smalling might have tried for a force out at second base, but Rosario was already to the bag by the time he fielded the ball.
Jean Marmol brought Rosario around for the Tornadoes’ first run with a single through the middle of the infield. Richard Puello hit a single into center field to bring Drummonds in for another run to make it 4-2.
The next series of at-bats proved to be strategic for Ramos. Luis Benitez hit a hard grounder to shallow first base, which might have been trouble if not for the fact that Ramos gave both of his base runners the green light and they were practically at their respective bases by the time first baseman Frank Pluskota had cleanly fielded the ball. With no one covering first base, Pluskota threw a belated attempt at an out that wound up being a throwing error. Marmol came around to score as a result and runners advanced to second and third base after the throw to home plate was off target.
With TC still trailing 4-3, Ramos inserted right-handed pinch hitter Michael Schofield. Ramos made a gutsy squeeze call, which paid huge dividends when Schofield laid down a perfect bunt just between the pitcher’s mound and first base. IU Southeast relief pitcher Kyle Rupe was able to get the force out at first base, but Schofield’s sac bunt scored Puello from third base and advanced Benitez from second to third base.
“Because they are a good team (IUSE), I was thinking we’ve got to get a tie first before we start thinking about winning it,” Ramos explained. “I knew we had a guy on second base and third base with one out. Most coaches would go with letting him hit, but I decided to go for the tie first. I brought in (Michael) Schofield from the bench. I saw it was a perfect situation for him; he bunts well. I felt like he’s a guy if you give him a strike, he also can hit the ball very well. It worked out for us.”
Designated hitter Hector Corona slammed a pitch straight up the middle for a walk-off single that scored Benitez.
IU Southeast was able to do most of their damage in the first inning against starting pitcher Jhon Peralta. Brian Crider hit a single to left field to score Marcus Howard. Jarret Young followed Crider’s at-bat with a single through the gap at first base and into right field to give the Grenadiers a 2-0 lead.
Ramos brought in Matt Holland at the start of the second inning. Holland proceeded to pitch 4 2/3 innings, while Moises Nunez came on for 1 1/3 innings of work to eventually earn the win.
“We’ve got four wins this year and they’re all from relief pitchers,” Ramos said. “The pitching staff has been doing very well. The first of the year, we played against Faulkner—they’re No. 1 in the nation—and we went there and had to do some tweaking with them and some practice. We had one week to get it done and we did. Then, we went to Mobile and we looked excellent. This week, they looked great. The pitching is very strong right now.”
Two costly errors resulted in a Grenadier run scored in the top of the fourth inning. Also, a potential inning-ending double play opportunity on a ground ball hit to second base resulted in a run in the top of the sixth inning to give IU Southeast a 4-0 lead.
“We’ve got to look back to the fourth and sixth inning when I noticed they had five hits and we had five hits, but we had three errors,” Ramos said. “That was the difference in the game. They scored two runs on those errors. They scored two early runs in the first inning. We hit, but then we made errors. We dug that hole pretty deep. We have been playing very good defense this year, so we just need to plug it in. If you look at the errors, that’s mental more than anything else. We just need to tweak those and we’ll be okay.”
In the first game of the day, IU Southeast beat the Tornadoes 3-2. The two teams also split Friday’s doubleheader with 6-5 TC win, followed by a 4-2 IU Southeast win.
IU Southeast scored all three runs in the top of the third inning. Crider hit a single through the middle of the infield to bring pinch runner Tyler Adams in to score to make it 1-0. Young hit a single to left field to bring Pluskota and Crider in to score to give the Grenadiers a 3-0 lead.
TC got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning with a single through the middle of the infield by Thompson to bring Puello in to score to deficit to 3-1.
Puello opened the bottom of the seventh inning with a single to right field and Thompson followed with a double to deep center field to bring Puello in to score to make it 3-2.
However, submarine hurler Evan Bickett earned a save by recording three straight outs. Shane Weedman earned the win with five innings of work, including seven strikeouts, most of which came by way of his effective curveball. Bryan Lopez was charged with the loss for TC.