Facing elimination, the game’s momentum all in the opposing dugout and coach Mary Lovrich watching on a big-screen TV behind the third-base bleachers after being ejected for the first time in his career, Dalton Martinez hustled home on a wild pitch to give Southern Poly a 5-4 victory over Georgetown (Ky.) on Saturday at the NAIA World Series.
“Feels great,” said Martinez, whose one-out single in the top of the seventh inning sparked the game-winning rally. “It was sink or swim and we just had to survive, and that’s all we’re trying to do right now.”
Martinez raced into third on a double by Khirus Ware, then scored the tiebreaking run when the third pitch out of Georgetown reliever Craig Ramsey’s hand bounced in the dirt, past catcher Armando Lomeli and to the backstop.
Lovrich, watching the play unfold on TV, wasn’t surprised at his team’s resiliency, as Martinez’s run came immediately following a three-run rally by Georgetown (46-11) that tied the game at 4-all in the bottom of the sixth.
“The thing with our team, we’re not really built on scoring 10 or 12 runs,” said Lovrich, who will have to sit out the Hornets’ next game Monday against either Cumberland (Tenn.) or tournament host Lewis-Clark State.
Southern Poly (46-18) has had 19 one-run games this season, including two already at the World Series.
“We’ve been in close games pretty much all year,” Lovrich said, “and I think having that mindset all year — if we keep it close, we can win.”
The Hornets tried to break it open early, though, finding their offensive rhythm after a 1-0 loss to Tabor (Kan.) on Friday to start the World Series.
An infield RBI single by Martinez in the top of the third put Southern Poly up 1-0. Chad Livingston then doubled home a run and scored on Chris Dykes’ single to left for a 3-1 Hornets edge.
Sam Eure’s RBI single to left in the top of the sixth pushed the lead to 4-1 before chaos erupted in Georgetown’s next at-bat.
A single, a hit batter and another single for the Tigers plated a run and put runners at the corners, setting the stage for a squeeze bunt by David Higuera.
Southern Poly pitcher Matt Miller fielded the ball and flipped it to Eure at the plate, seemingly in plenty of time for the out at home.
But home-plate umpire Dwayne Finley ruled that Tigers baserunner Steven Mancilla slid safely under the tag, prompting a debate from Lovrich, who was ejected from the game.
Georgetown added one more run in the rally, tying the game at 4-all.
But as they’ve faced elimination all season —Southern Poly will be consolidated with Kennesaw State in December, meaning athletics will cease to exist — the Hornets fought back with the wild-pitch winner in its next at-bat.
“It’s something we’ve talked about since day one,” Martinez said of the end of Southern Poly athletics. “… This is the best group of guys I’ve ever played with in my life and everybody just wants to win.”