The Neptune Beach Pearl had trouble hitting the ball out of the infield, but it was just what they needed to pull out a split with the Cornejo Oaks with a dramatic 4-3 walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth Sunday.
The Pearl used three infield hits in the ninth to break a 3-3 tie. Mason Fishback, who leadoff with the first infield hit by legging out a soft grounder to the left of short, scored the winning run on the highest of high choppers off the synthetic home plate circle by Marcus Vidales. The chopper rose more than 20 feet high and felt like it hung in the air for minutes, not seconds, but Fishback needed the entire duration to dive over the left knee of Oaks catcher Josh Huntley, who applied the tag as Fishback’s fingertips touched home plate.
“I thought we got away with one there,” Pearl manager Brant Cummings said. “Fishback broke late, but (Vidales) hit the ball so high it gave us a little more time to get there. And that call could’ve gone either way. We got one there.”
Oaks manager David Soliz vehemently argued the call as the Pearl jumped for joy around Fishback and Vidales, but if there was any doubt about the call Fishback cleared it up.
“I thought I was safe,” Fishback said with some conviction. “I knew I had to score that run. (Vidales) did his job and now I’ve got to slide around that tag and get my hand in there.”
The Pearl were shut out 4-0 in the opening game of the doubleheader and were trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning after an Austin Murphy homer. Ozzy Braff woke up the Pearl offense with a leadoff double in the fourth, but the rally was limited to one run after a Mickey McDonald sacrifice fly.
An error enabled the Oaks to extend the lead to 3-1 in the sixth, but the Pearl (11-9, 4-6 CCL) tied the game 3-3 in the seventh with just one hit that barely made it out of the infield, an RBI single by Marcus Vidales just under the shortstop’s glove and into centerfield.
The rally was set up by wildness from Alec Zeidler, who walked the first three batters he faced. Tim Ginther came in from right field to relieve Zeidler, and induced an infield popup before Vidales singled. Ginther appeared to be out of the jam when he struck out Braff, but wildness again haunted the Oaks with a wild pitch allowing Mason Fishback to scramble home with the tying run.
However, the way that Pearl combo score the final run that was the focus after a long day at Laney College.
“I was just trying to put it in play,” Vidales said of his game-winning RBI. “Obviously I didn’t hit it like I wanted, but hey, it got the job done. … It was kind of a big deal to get that one. We want to get every win we can in league and our offense wasn’t producing like we need it to with men on base.”
The Pearl travel to Cal Berkeley’s Evans Field to play the Puf Caps, Wednesday at 5 p.m. before returning home Thursday at 6 p.m. to host the Humboldt Crabs at Laney College. But Cummings would like to savor this win before worrying about who’s next. “After being shutout, it feels good to get a come-from-behind win like that. It could’ve been a long day, but now they can feel good going home today,” Cummings said. “I’m always proud of them as men, but today I’m also proud of them as players.”