Northwood pulls out victory over Irvine in 7th


IRVINE - Northwood's baseball team pushed across a run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Irvine, 9-8, in a wild Pacific Coast League game which had a bizarre ending Friday at Northwood.

The second-place Timberwolves (13-7, 8-3) probably felt fortunate to get away with a victory.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Northwood's Kevin Locklear blooped a ball around the pitcher's mound. Three Irvine fielders surrounded the ball, but no one called for it.

One player dove for the ball at the last minute, but the ball fell for a gift single, allowing Alex King to score the winning run. King had doubled with two outs to start the rally.

"I've never seen that before. I guess it's a hit," Northwood coach Rob Stuart said. "I felt bad for Irvine; they played well enough to win. They haven't gotten a lot of luck and we've had tons of luck. It's not that we're playing great baseball. I feel lucky to have gotten eight wins in league."

It was another tough loss in what has been a rough year for Irvine (6-16, 1-10).

"We just have to make the easy plays," Irvine coach Keith Szczudlak said. "We came out early and hit the ball well. We've got to keep doing that."

Northwood outhit Irvine, 14-6, and there were plenty of free passes in the game that took more than three hours to complete.

Irvine pitchers walked five (one intentionally) and hit two batters. Northwood pitchers walked 13 (one intentionally) and hit two. The teams also combined for five errors.

"Location is very important and we missed some spots today in key spots," Szczudlak said. "They responded well. There is a reason why they're in second place. They scrap and they hit the ball well and they don't make mistakes.

"They just kept pushing that whole time. Our guys did a good job of responding. We played a terrible game on Tuesday (Northwood won, 10-2). It was like we didn't even show up, and then today, these guys came out and played hard. We had a lot of guys playing out of position but they played well."

Irvine came out fired up against Northwood, scoring four runs in the first inning, one on a sacrifice fly by Jeff Vandemoortel and three more on a bases-clearing double by David Cota.

Northwood responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning, two coming on a double by Locklear. Danny Mallek drove home the other run on a sacrifice fly.

Irvine took a 5-3 lead in the second inning on Vandemoortel's RBI single. But Northwood scored two more in the bottom of the second on RBI singles by Eric Winslow and Saagar Seth to tie it, 5-5.

The Vaqueros moved ahead, 6-5, in the third inning when Cody Hitchcock reached on a fielder's choice, driving in Abelardo Blanchet, who had walked.

Northwood countered in the bottom of the inning when Sueng-jae Chi drove home Kevin Fiege with a sacrifice fly.

Irvine then took a 7-6 lead with a run in the fourth inning. Matt Russell singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

Northwood pushed across two runs in the sixth inning on RBI singles by Fiege and Mallek to take an 8-7 lead.

Irvine responded with a run in the top of the seventh to tie it. Pinch-hitter Benjamin Kessler walked and scored on a groundout by Evan Dossett.

But Jonathan Model, who came on to pitch in the seventh, struck out Blanchet preventing Irvine from pushing across the go-ahead runs.

While Northwood was able to rally for the win, Stuart was clearly not satisfied with the effort of his team.

"I'm not pleased with the fact that we disrespected the game by showing up like we were just supposed to win," Stuart said. "We missed signs, we do things wrong, we get doubled-up on line drives.

"It all comes back to our practice, our practice wasn't very good. You can have a bad game, but you can't have a bad game this time of the season. The whole concept of the team went out the door today; it was every man for himself."

Winslow led Northwood, going 2 for 3 with three runs scored. King was 3 for 5 with two runs scored. Locklear was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored, Fiege was 3 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI and Mallek was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Cota was 2 for 2 with three RBIs and a sacrifice while Vandemoortel was 1 for 2 with two RBI to lead Irvine.

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