Aviators Win on Walkoff by Lewis
The beauty off the walkoff homerun is the dramatic way in which it drops the curtain on a ballgame. In a game that saved all its drama until the ninth inning, Will Lewis was the star performer. Homerless all season until two nights ago in a losing effort at Fort Worth, Lewis left the yard twice Thursday and picked his teammates up after a nightmarish top of the ninth nearly cost them a game they'd controlled all night. The result was a 5-4 victory over the Shreveport Sports in the opening game of an eight game homestand that will go a long way in determining if Coastal Bend can make it to the post season.
In the top of the second inning, Lewis made two dazzling defensive plays to keep the game scoreless. Diving to his left, he snared a sharply hit grounder off the bat of JP Schmidt, got to his feet, and threw to first base in time to get the first out. Later in the inning, ranging behind the second base bag and into shallow center field he made a sliding catch on Juan Ventura's pop up to retire the side. In the bottom of the inning with a man on second and two out, Lewis homered to left field to give Coastal Bend a 2-0 lead.
The Aviators put up two more runs in the sixth. With two out and runners at second and third, Phillip Grau's broken bat single to shallow left scored Grant Richardson and Stephen Morales to boost the lead to 4-0. Meanwhile, starting pitcher TJ Hendricks was rolling right along, and while he allowed a run on two singles in the top of the seventh, he departed with a 4-1 lead after giving Coastal Bend seven solid innings.
Jonathan Hunton pitched another scoreless eighth inning and closer Tom Atlee came on for the ninth. That's when things nearly came apart for the Aviators.
Shreveport catcher Tommy Bryant opened the inning by reaching on an error by shortstop James Lofton. That brought third baseman Ventura to the plate. He tapped a slow roller to short that barely stayed in Lofton's glove as he scooped it off the turf. He bobbled the transfer and made a desperate throw to first that was off the mark and allowed Ventura to reach second base while Bryant advanced to third. Wade Robinson then hit a ball to third base that took Grant Richardson slightly behind the bag and toward the foul line. His throw was high and wide of first, and Bryant and Ventura jogged home with 2 unearned runs to tighten the score at 4-3. A passed ball to the next batter Austin Pride moved Robinson to third. Pride's single to right brought him in and the game was suddenly tied 4-4. Pride was thrown out trying to steal second and Jack Joffrion struck out for out number three, but with the side retired the scoreboard read 4 in the "E" column for the home team.
As suddenly as the game was in doubt, it was over. Lewis stepped to the plate to open the bottom of the ninth and hit a 3-2 pitch from reliever Leo Tyson over the left field wall. He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates who poured out of the dugout as the ball disappeared from sight. After the ninth inning errors cost him the save, Atlee was credited with the win to up his record to 2-1. Tyson was the loser and is now 1-2.
The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Aviators, who, despite suffering through a 12 game losing streak that lasted most of the month of July, have kept fighting and kept together as a team. It was the second game with late inning heroics this week.
At 9-14, they now move ahead of Shreveport in the South Division standings, rising from the cellar into fourth place. The Sports now occupy the bottom spot with a mark of 10-17. The teams play game two of the series tomorrow night at 7:05pm. The game can be heard locally on KOPY 1070 AM as well as online.
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