CONYERS - The Salem baseball team gave up a seven-run lead in the final two innings of Wednesday's game against Eastside and came close to sending it into extra innings until a walk-off home run by Cameron Gibson gave the Seminoles the 11-8 win.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Seminoles were in control having an 8-1 lead.
That was when Salem coach Chad Kitchens decided to give different players some time on the mound.
After Randy Loew reached first base on a base hit and Salem got the first out, the Eagles started taking advantage of the Salem pitchers.
Eastside scored six runs in the inning without another hit.
Two runs were a result of walks, three came on wild pitches and one came on an infield error.
"With a big lead and a nonregion game it was a good time to give other people a shot on the mound to see what they could do," Salem coach Chad Kitchens said. "I could've stayed with the No. 2 guy I brought in but I had other guys I wanted to look at, and obviously they didn't perform the way we thought they would."
In the top of the seventh with two outs and a full count, Keaton Anglin ripped a line drive up the middle of the infield to plate courtesy runner Taylor Head and tie the game.
"In my three years, that's the best I've seen them play from start to finish. I told them I didn't have a good feeling coming into the ball game," Eastside coach Michael Poor said. "Our bus was a half hour late, we didn't take infield (practice), it started raining on us when we got here and we get down 8-1. My first thought is here we go again."
But in the bottom of the seventh with two runners on base, Gibson tagged the ball sending it over the deepest part of center field for the win.
"I felt like we had our big guys coming up in the seventh. With this short field, I felt somebody would step up and do something," Kitchens said.
Offensively for the Seminoles, they finished the game with nine hits including two home runs and a double.
Pacing Salem at the plate were Jimmy Gerard and Gibson with two hits each.
Getting the other extra-base hits were Josh Bailey (double) and Cody Davis (home run).
Bobby Coggins and Travis Marks combined for nine hits, four walks and one hit batsman.
"I expect our pitchers to get banged around right now. The only way they're going to learn is by facing good hitters, which is why I scheduled a very good, nonregion schedule. Those guys are bigger and stronger then us," Poor said.
Cody Strange got the win for the Seminoles, pitching one-third inning in the bottom of the seventh.
Even though the Eagles only had five hits, they showed a lot of patience at the plate getting eight walks while only striking out twice.
"Our hitters have done an exceptional job. Young as the season is we really harped on plate discipline. When we took our hacks, we were swinging to crush the ball. We weren't fooled on any hitter's count. They're very selective, they have an idea of where they want to hit the ball," Poor said. "They're covering certain parts of the plate. It's making all the difference in the world. They've become mentally mature as hitters and I think that's going to pay off huge dividends come later in the season."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.