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SYRACUSE – Just call them the cardiac kids.
For the third time this season the Wawasee baseball team managed to stun a conference opponent with a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Northridge fell victim to the resilient Warriors on Thursday night as Wawasee overcame a 6-0 deficit to top the visiting Raiders 7-6 in thrilling fashion.
The Warriors spent the first half of their evening getting beat up by the bats of Northridge. The visiting nine built up their lead over the course of four innings through timely hitting and excellent base running. But as soon as the Raider bats stopped, the Warrior offense finally woke up.
After picking up runs in the fourth and sixth innings, Wawasee found itself down 6-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Northridge reliever Payton Carson retired the first Warrior batter but a string of errors from the Raider infield gave Wawasee some much needed breaks.
The blunders ultimately led to two runs for the Warriors, knotting the game up, 6-6. With one out and runners on first and second, the senior members of the Warrior squad stepped up and took control.
Nate Hare came up to bat for the Warriors and made a play described by Wawasee head coach Brent Doty as “selfless.” Hare laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners into scoring position for fellow senior, Gage Fannin.
After spending the entire game in the dugout, Fannin was called upon by Doty to pinch hit in the bottom of the seventh. While Fannin is primarily used as a pitcher by the Warriors, he is certainly no stranger to pressure-packed moments at the plate.
Fannin stepped up to the plate with two game-winning hits already under his belt. The senior drove home the winning run against Warsaw on May 7 and against Elkhart Memorial on May 9. Fannin swung for the fences on the first pitch before looking at a called strike two. But the 0-2 count did not effect Fannin’s plate presence as he took the third offering from Carson and blooped it into right field, bringing home Nate Prescott to complete the Warrior comeback.
“It’s all about them,” Doty said of his team’s resilient attitude. “If I could bottle what this team has and sell it, I’d be a full-time millionaire. It’s just all them. If I put a bunt on, they have to come up and execute it, they have to come up in a big spot.
“Gage Fannin comes up and gets a hit, he’s been clutch for us three times, three-for-three. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I don’t know, our guys don’t quit. We just have to learn how to do that early on in games.”
Andrew Milligan started the game on the mound for Wawasee and fanned four batters in four innings of work. Drew Wright and Gage Reinhard both did fine work in relief of Milligan. Reinhard (1-0) picked up the win for Wawasee in addition to scoring two runs.
Offensively Wawasee was led by Caleb Dingeldein who went 2-3 and was hit by a pitch and Brett Carson who was 1-2 with two RBIs. Hare, Wright and Bailey Yoder all scored once for Wawasee and Prescott tied Reinhard in leading the team with two runs scored.
Carson, Cameron Ridenour and Jake Baylis scored all of the runs for Northridge. Andrew Kennedy started the game for the Raiders, giving up two earned runs. Carson took the loss for Northridge.
The Warriors started 0-7 in NLC play, but finished 4-3 over their past seven games. Wawasee (9-14, 4-10) will travel to Lakeland Saturday morning for an 11 a.m. first pitch against the Lakers.
In the junior varsity contest Wawasee moved to 13-6 on the year with a 14-13 win over Northridge. Aaron Beer struck out four batters to get the win for Wawasee and Will McCarthy had a three-run homer in the fourth inning to highlight Wawasee’s offensive output.
The Wawasee ‘C’ team was also in action on Friday night. The Warriors suffered a 9-7 loss at Elkhart Memorial. Rhett Coblentz led Wawasee with two RBIs. Gavin Bontrager pitched a complete game for the Warriors, fanning seven Charger batters.