(The following is part two of “Memorial Day Miracle” chronicling the 2005 4th Regional Tournament game between Allen County-Scottsville and Warren East. Please read part one first.)
The selective hitting Jones was an outstanding two strike hitter. But the tiring Raider pitcher had started most every hitter with a fastball and even down two runs Coach Harwood instructed Jones to “go for it if he liked it.”
Jones liked it. The first of the “one at a times” was a first-pitch fastball that caught too much of the inside corner. The snap of Jones’ bat sent a whistling liner over the right field wall post haste.
If doubt had crept into the recesses of the Patriot minds, the Jones round tripper dispelled such disbelief.
“I don’t know if the (players) had been thinking we could come back on (East pitcher Ross) Hammonds or not,” says Assistant Scott Stamper. “But when Jones hit that shot, I know for a fact they believed we would win the game.”
Stamper didn’t sense arrogance. Instead, he knew this group was accustomed to baseball achievement; one of those baseball savvy groups that still needed in-game coaching, but not much; a group that didn’t just expect success, they willed it.
Player Harwood just wanted to extend the inning; walk, hit batsman, reach on an error, anything to get on base, get advanced over, and, at least, score the tying run.
The slugging junior worked the count to 2-0 and looked for a fastball on the inner half. However he held the trigger on pitch three as the ball stayed out and caught the corner for strike one.
Harwood had been instructed since knee high that trying to pull an outside pitch was recipe for a ground ball to short. If only he had a nickel for every time he had heard “take it the other way”. Thinking his way through an at bat had long been ingrained in him by his baseball playing family, including his uncle, the head coach of the Patriots.
“I knew the pitcher would try and break off a curve or come with the same pitch,” says Harwood. “So I was looking to go the other way.”
Of course he was.
Pitch four was almost identical to pitch three. Harwood just wanted to make solid contact with the fastball on the outside corner. That he did and then some.
The right fielder locked on the drifting ball and seemed to have a bead on it. But the ball drifted until the outfielder ran out of grass. Maybe the wind pushed the ball out, or maybe it was just those darned baseball gods. Either way, Harwood had tied a game that he says his team was “meant to win.”
As the Harwood floater fell into solo shot territory, the Warren East countenance took a dive as well. Adams says the Jones shot had taken air out of the Raiders, and the Harwood slam completely deflated them.
Though East had held the lead all day, Adams says he never felt the inevitability of a loss.
“I remember never feeling pressured like we were going to lose,” said Adams.
Some fans might boast that they believed as well, but truth be told, many of them had already performed the last rites over a pre-mature Patriot termination. As a matter of fact, a few of them extricated themselves from their get-away vehicles after the Harwood homer, repented from their unbelief and walked back to the chain link fence to see if they truly believed in miracles.