Salem was three outs away from a victory over Heritage Wednesday when the teams took the field for the top of the seventh. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, their crosstown rival wasn’t quite finished.
Heritage erased a one-run deficit with a six-run seventh and won 8-4 in a Region 8-AAAAA game. It was the fifth consecutive victory for the Patriots (14-6, 8-3) and the eighth straight in the series (Salem last won in March, 2010), but it didn’t come easy.
Salem (7-12, 2-7) had grabbed its one-run lead, thanks to a sixth-inning rally that chased Heritage starter Domenic Bazzani from the game. Bazzani got the last of his six strikeouts to start the frame, but then hit Jason Howell with a pitch and gave up Jordan Johnson’s double, which ended the left-hander’s night and tied the game at 2-2.
Facing reliever Ryan Sutton, Akil Baddoo, who had entered the game as a first baseman in the top of the sixth, delivered a single that scored Johnson for a 3-2 lead.
Salem starter Rocky Mauriello had allowed just one earned run and was in line for the victory when he walked Anthony Williams to start the seventh and was lifted for right-handed reliever Ryan Read. Things didn’t go well for Read as he walked Sutton and Tyler Holcombe reached when Cary Campbell made a poor throw from third base.
That loaded the bases and Austin New, who had come into the game to play right field when Bazzani was lifted in the sixth, ripped a line drive back through the middle, which chased home Williams and Sutton and put the red-hot Patriots up for the rest of the night.
Isreal Zackery followed with a single to make it a 5-3 game. Heritage attempted eight bunts over the seven innings (five either allowed the batter to reach base, or scored in a run) and the last two bunts - a sacrifice by Matt Studdard and Justin Roberson’s squeeze bunt that scored Zackery, along with a run-scoring single by George Moll helped Heritage pull away.
The Salem defense faltered in the top of the sixth and that allowed Heritage to take their first lead of the night.
In a 1-1 game and with runners at first and second (Bazzani and Zackery had drawn consecutive walks to open the inning) and no outs, Studdard’s sacrifice was fielded by Campbell, but in attempting to get the lead runner, pinch-runner Austin New, at third, his throw sailed into left field and New scored the go-ahead run.
Salem put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the first to get to Bazzani with the game’s initial run.
Jordan Scott walked and Tiwuan Head followed with a high fly ball that Freddie Bryant nearly caught against the left field wall, but the ball fell in and Scott scored to put the hosts up 1-0.
The Seminoles tried to add to the lead when a wild pitch moved pinch-runner Braxton Hogan to third and Howell walked and stole second. Bazzani struck out Jordan Johnson to end the inning.
Heritage broke through with the tying run without the benefit of a hit in the top of the third.
Moll drew a leadoff walk, and after a sacrifice and a throwing error by Johnson at shortstop, runners were at the corners with one out. Holcombe laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt that scored Moll to even things up at 1-1.