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No doubt, a more dramatic finish could have been scripted for the Wilson Tobs’ 2018 Coastal Plain League summer collegiate baseball opener in Fleming Stadum on Thursday night.
But the one that unfolded appealed — especially to the Tobs and third baseman Drew Brooks.
With the score knotted at 2-2, the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the left-handed hitting Brooks belted a grand slam, a blast over the left-field wall, sending Wilson to a 6-2 victory against the Peninsula (Virginia) Pilots.
The Tobs, coming off a horrendous 2017 season, continue East Division play with their road opener against Edenton on Friday night.
The score stayed tied at 2-2 in the top of the seventh when right-hander Niko Jenkins relieved left-hander Cody Smith with two outs and the bases loaded and, with a sharp-biting breaking pitch, struck out Pilots hitter Dominic Toso.
Smith struck out the first two batters he faced in overpowering fashion but, then, couldn’t locate the strike zone and walked the bases loaded.
The one strikeout was enough to land Jenkins the win.
Wilson loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh on singles by catcher Steven Zimmerman and left fielder Dudley Taw and a hit batsman. After a strikeout from Pilots right-hander Douglas Palmer, the loser, Brooks connected on a high, outside fastball.
“I just try to get good wood on any ball at any time I can,” Brooks downplayed his feat. “I was trying not to do too much and stay within myself. I got something (a pitch) that I could get my hands extended on. I was just trying to provide for my team and pick up my teammates.”
Mission accomplished for the infielder who slugged eight home runs during the collegiate season for Missouri Baptist.
“I hit it,” Brooks described. “I watched the left fielder and kept watching the left fielder. I surprised myself. There is no better feeling than to square up a pitch. That’s why you fall in love with baseball.
Relievers Luis Acosta and Jared Gallagher took care of the rest, allowing but one base runner and striking out three the last two innings.
The only run that Tobs starter Sean Deely allowed was second baseman Toso’s lead-off homer in the second. Deely lasted five innings, yielding but two hits.
The Pilots got their second run in the sixth — when they twice loaded the bases but plated one run. Reliever Waylan Ergle left the bases loaded.
Wilson took a 2-1 lead in the third. Taw singled and raced home on Tucker’s double off the wall. Center fielder Benton Doyle singled and Tucker tallied the go-ahead run when Brooks’ line drive to right field was turned into a double play.
Tucker batted 2 for 2 for the Tobs, while Brooks and Taw contributed two hits each. Six Wilson pitchers notched nine strikeouts.