LENOX — Playing with no head coach in a game that featured more than enough chirping between the dugouts and a couple different umpire warnings, the Lenox Baseball team had to rely on their own grit and determination.
The Millionaires trailed twice in the late innings and both times reached back and came up with an answer. The second response was a resounding one, as senior Mike Downer went the other way with a walk-off RBI double to right filed in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Lenox topped Drury 6-5 in a doozy of an extra-inning affair Friday afternoon at War Memorial.
“We have eight seniors on this team, so we all had to step up and that’s what happened. We had to come back twice in this game,” said Downer. “It just shows how much fight this team actually has. We’re on a five-game winning streak right now. This team always fights and never gives up.”
With head coach Kevin Downer unavailable due to illness, the hosts had to rely on a mixture of assistant coaches, returning college players and a strong senior class to battle Drury.
An inning before Downer’s heroics, the Millionaires found themselves behind 4-3 in a game they had previously led 2-0, facing their final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh.
The Blue Devils brought in Mike Dubie to close, but he was immediately met with a Noah Hunter single down the third base line. Downer followed with a fielder’s choice and was walked to second by Joe Bouvier. The two advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch and then Connor Hanson came up with the clutch base hit.
“It was definitely building up some energy in our dugout. Ultimately, I do think it helped us get the W,” said Hanson of the back-and-forth between the teams.
“It helped us a little bit, but you don’t want to get too into stuff like that,” added Downer.
Downer scored the tying run with ease on Hanson’s single, but Lenox was looking to end things right there. Bouvier rounded third and dove for home. The Drury relay was in time, though, and extra-innings would be needed.
The adversity didn’t end there for Lenox, either. Drury star Thaylen Harrison nearly won the game himself, drilling a Hanson offering to the centerfield wall for a leadoff triple in the eighth. He eventually came home on a Dubie sacrifice fly, before the Lenox defense could put an end to the half.
Trailing 5-4, Lenox’s No. 8 hitter Zach Zurrin managed to fire up a rally with a lead-off single. However, back-to-back fielder’s choices left two out with Jake Corcoran on first. The speedy junior swiped second, though, and the tying run was in scoring position.
Senior Mike Hurley put the ball in play and the shortstops throw was high to first. Hurley was safe and Corcoran, who had left at the crack, flew around third to score on the error.
Hunter followed with a single back up the middle to move Hurley to second with the potential game-winning run. That potential became reality when Downer landed his shot to deep right.
“I was kind of struggling, my day behind the plate was rough too, with a lot of passed balls,” said Downer. “It felt really good to get that double because this team cares so much and getting this win towards tournament is huge. He was trying to get me outside, but they had their right fielder playing towards center, so I just tried to flick my hands and it popped out there and got down.”
Lenox scored first with a two-run second that saw both Downer and Mike Abdalla score and Jett Steinman pick up the first of his two RBI with a single. Hunter got the start and went four-plus innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
Hanson came on after Drury grabbed a 3-2 lead and the bases were still loaded with nobody out. The senior hammered the door shut, though, getting a grounder to short, which Hurley used to cut down the lead-runner at home, a strikeout and liner to Hurley.
“My goal there was to just get groundouts and trust my team to help me out,” said Hanson, who threw a no-hitter to beat Hoosac last week. “I’m just trying to do me out there and throw strikes, whatever I can do.”