Alex Tavera squares to bunt in game two of McNary’s doubleheader against Summit. The Celtics defeated the Storm 3-2 in the first game and 6-5 in the second game (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
All season long, the McNary baseball team has shown that they have a flair for the dramatic, and that theme didn’t change in their doubleheader against Summit last week.
A walk-off single by Robert Benson gave the Celtics a 3-2 win in the opening game. In game two, after falling behind 5-2, McNary rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth and defeated Summit 6-5 to pull off the series sweep on Friday, April 26.
“All-in-all, we’re feeling pretty good about getting a couple gutsy wins,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said. “We came up big in big moments.”
After game one went scoreless through three innings, Summit struck for a pair of runs in the top of the fourth to take a 2-0 lead. But that was the only damage the Celtics gave up for the contest as starting pitcher Rennick Jeffries gave up just two runs (one earned) on two hits while fanning nine in his six innings of work.
The Celtics were getting no-hit for for the first four innings by Summit pitcher Hank Tobias. But Ty Covalt finally got McNary off the schneid with a leadoff single to center field to start the top of the fifth.
Covalt showed off his wheels by stealing second moments later, and then eventually came into score after a pair of wild pitches.
The offensive jolt for McNary continued in the bottom of the sixth as Benson began the frame with a double to left field. Benson moved up 90 feet after a bunt by Jamison Martin and then tied the game at 2-2 after a sacrifice fly from Covalt.
Nigel Harris came in relief of Jeffries on the hill in the top of the seventh. While Harris has struggled with his command at times this season, the senior right-hander pitched a 1-2-3 frame to give his team a chance to win it in the bottom half of the inning.
“I have more confidence in what I’m throwing,” Harris said. “It’s huge for me when I take my time and gain my balance.”
Harris also started the offensive threat for the Celtics in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out walk, which was followed by another free pass to Devon Bedoya. After a strikeout by Ian Martin, Benson came to the plate with two on and two out and a chance to win the game.
Benson worked the count to 2-1, then went the opposite way with an outside fastball and hit a sharp single to right field. Harris, who has great speed, was able to score easily to send the Celtics off to the 3-2 win.
“I knew when I came up in my last at-bat that I wanted to go the other way and it just worked out and my mechanics came through,” Benson said. “It’s a great feeling when you get to first base and then your whole team mobs you.”
Summit grabbed the early advantage in game two with five runs in five innings off Bedoya — who got the start on the mound for the Celtics. But despite facing a three-run deficit, the Celtics offense picked things up in the bottom of the sixth.
Jacob Jackson doubled to center field to begin the frame and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. A one-out sacrifice fly from Covalt then cut the deficit to 5-3.
Alex Simpson kept things going with a two-out double to the right center field gap and was knocked in thanks to a RBI-single by David Allen.
Harris followed with a seeing-eye single to the right side to put the go-ahead run on base.
“We just kept grinding, it’s a mentality for us,” Harris said. “We don’t want to give up. That’s the character of this team.”
On Harris’ single to right field, Allen tried to push the envelope and go from first to third. The aggressive play worked as the throw from Summit’s Drew Steelhammer got past the third baseman and Allen was able to score on the error to tie the game up while Harris advanced to second.
Soon after tying the game, Harris swiped third base to put the go-ahead run 90 feet away, which ended up being crucial to the Celtics completing the comeback.
The next batter was Ian Martin, who hit a slow roller to the right side that was bobbled by the Summit second baseman. Martin beat the throw to the bag, which allowed Harris to score from third, giving McNary their first lead of game two at 6-5.
“We had some really good at-bats with two outs,” Keeker said. “Guys came up big with a series of hits in a row and gave us the lead.”
Bedoya got through the top of the sixth unscathed on the bump, setting up Harris to close the game once again in the seventh.
Harris started off the inning with back-to-back strikeouts with his filthy breaking ball. After surrendering a two-out double, Harris forced the last batter to ground out to second to end the game.
“Nigel had a heck of a day for us,” Keeker said. “He came into pressure situations and calmly threw his curveball for strikes.”