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Nelling caps final comeback

April 05, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

For the last 2 1/2 innings on a windy, frigid Wednesday night, the North Hagerstown and Williamsport baseball teams played a game of "Can you top this?"

Momentum swung back and forth with every half-inning, until the Hubs made their last at-bat count, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh. Cody Nelling's walk-off, two-run double down the left-field line gave North a 12-11 victory in the MVAL Antietam contest.

The Hubs (5-1, 3-0) scored four runs in the sixth to take a 9-7 lead, but could not hold it as the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1) rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh.

"When they came in in the (middle of the) seventh, there was still life in them," North coach Shawn Reynolds said. "They knew they could come back."

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With one out, Tommy Evans blasted Williamsport reliever Brian Braswell's offering over the fence to left to cut the lead to 11-10. Marcellus Sumlin followed with a sharp single to right, and Braswell walked Mark Dattilio, leading Wildcats coach Larnie Vickers to call on Chad Bikle to try to close out the game.

Instead, Nelling jumped on a high fastball, pulling it deep down the line. It stayed fair by a couple feet and Sumlin and Dattilio raced around the bases, with Dattilio scoring the winning run as the throw home was wide to the first-base side.

"I was looking for a fastball, and he got it a little up," Nelling said. "I wasn't quite sure (it would stay fair), I just ran it out. We just battled."

Trailing 5-2 entering the fifth, North scored three runs off Williamsport starter Andrew Duff to tie the game. Sumlin, a left-handed hitter, ripped a down-and-in slider over the fence to right for a two-run homer. Dattilio ripped a single up the middle, stole second and scored the tying run on Cadyn Robinson's single to left.

Bikle's two-run homer off North reliever Carl Spessard gave Williamsport a 7-5 lead in the sixth.

The Hubs answered with a four-run bottom half off Braswell, who was hurt by the Wildcats' inability to field a pair of grounders. Dattilio drove in Tyler Hornbecker with a sacrifice fly, and Nelling drove in Evans with an infield single that was essentially a swinging bunt, tying the game at 7. Nelling stole second and Sumlin raced home from third as the throw to second from catcher A.J. Jamison sailed high. Finally, Colby Fisher drove in Nelling with a double to the fence in left center.

"We made a lot of physical errors in the field defensively," Vickers said. "When you pick up 11 runs, you should win the ballgame. ... Our first six games, our boys have never given up, they're always battling back. We just made too many mistakes."

North, however, had just as tough a time keeping the lead as Williamsport, which jumped back in front in the top of the seventh off Hubs reliever Steven Younker. Daniel Myers led off with a walk, and with two outs, Nick Bodnar hit a popup into the wind, which carried it into shallow right-center field. A pair of Hubs converged on the ball but neither could make the play as Myers scored to cut the lead to 9-8 and Bodnar reached second.

Jamison - who hit a two-run homer in the third inning - was pitched around and walked, and Bikle followed with a two-run double to the right-field gap to give Williamsport a 10-9 lead. Bikle stole third and came home when Evans' throw bounced into the outfield, making it 11-9 and setting the stage for North's final rally.

"We had a couple of big hits, especially after they made their mistakes," Reynolds said. "We got some good pitches to hit and took advantage of their mistakes, just like they took advantage of some of our mistakes."

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