With two outs in the final inning of East Mountain’s April 27 season opener, the Timberwolves had the bases loaded.
After falling behind the visiting St. Michael’s Horsemen by 8 runs, the T’Wolves had scratched and clawed their way back to tie the game at 10-10.
East Mountain’s first-year head coach, Ray Demarest, said he told Garrett Darner—who was on third base—to look for a ball in the dirt.
When the next pitch bounced at home plate and skidded toward the backstop, Darner dashed home to give the T’Wolves an 11-10 walk-off victory.
“I just read the ball in the dirt and it got away from the catcher, so I went and scored the winning run,” Darner said. “Ray was saying, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ but then I saw the catcher didn’t know where the ball was, so I just took it in.”
It was a thrilling finish to a game that seemed out of reach as late as the top of the sixth inning.
Darner started on the mound for East Mountain and pitched three scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the fourth, including two home runs. He was relieved by Cooper Davis.
“He was cruising,” Demarest said of Darner. “He just ran out of gas.”
In the fifth, Davis gave up a pair of base hits and five bases on balls that allowed the Horsemen to tack on five more runs. He was relieved by his brother, Reed Davis. East Mountain prevented a couple of runs with some solid defense, including a diving catch in the outfield by Wyatt Ziehe, who then threw the ball into the infield to double off a St. Mike’s baserunner and end the inning.
St. Mike’s held East Mountain scoreless through the first four innings as the T’Wolves’ batters struck out eight times—six of them went down looking.
East Mountain got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Deshawn Griego-Torrez’ two-out base hit drove in Cooper Davis.
After the Horsemen added a run in the top of the sixth to increase their lead to 9-1, East Mountain’s Garrett Hitchcock ignited a rally in the home half of the frame. Hitchcock hammered a 2-2 fastball over the fence in left field for a solo home run.
“Ray told me to wait for it, keep my shoulder in, so I tried to do that and I sent it off pretty good,” Hitchcock said, adding, “It felt good, I was running up and down the dugout, trying to get everyone excited and get them going.”
Darner deposited a bases-loaded hit to shallow right-center field to drive in a run and make it 9-3. Cooper Davis followed with a two-RBI double. Griego-Torrez drove in Darner with an RBI double to the right-center gap.
“He gave me a fastball right where I like it and I just turned on it,” Griego-Torrez said. “I really enjoy being back here on the diamond again.”
Cole Phillips followed with an RBI base hit to drive in Davis, and then Hitchcock—batting for the second time in the inning—hit a groundball to third that drove in Griego-Torrez to trim the deficit to 9-8.
St. Mikes’ added a run in the top of the seventh to go up 10-8.
Ross Amestoy and Jake McFall led off the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back walks. Ziehe drove in Amestoy with a chopper that got past the St. Mike’s shortstop to make it a one-run game.
Darner reached on a groundball, and McFall tried to score on the play but got caught in a rundown for the first out. Cooper Davis walked to load the bases. Griego-Torrez flied out to center for the second out. The St. Mike’s pitcher got two strikes on Phillips before drilling him in the back for a free pass that drove in Ziehe and sent Darner to third.
“I got lucky, I was 0-2, it was somewhere about here,” Phillips said as he rubbed a circle in the small of his back. “Luckily it didn’t hurt too bad, it kept us going.”
With Hitchcock at the plate, a wild pitch brought in Darner for the game-winning run.
Demarest bounded down the baseline right behind Darner as the rest of the team spilled out of the dugout to celebrate.
“As soon as it hopped up I knew the catcher wasn’t gonna get it, I knew that was it,” Demarest said.
Demarest, who played for the T’Wolves from 2008 to 2012 and was a member of the team’s 2012 Class 2A state championship, said he had so much adrenaline going after the game, he had to drag the field just to calm down.
“I thought my heart was gonna literally jump out of my chest,” he said. “It is just as exhilarating coaching as it is playing, winning a game like that, it is incredible. It is incredibly hard to come back from 8-0, and that’s exactly what we did, just by staying in it and chipping away, it was so exciting.”