Garrett Rast had been doing it all night. But the Nation Ford Falcons were going to make him prove it to them one more time. Prove it he did after the Falcons intentionally walked Josh Crump to pitch to him in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs. Rast roped a lined shot past a diving Clay Hunt at shortstop into left field to bring home Dupree Hart from second base and give the Northwestern Trojans a 4-3 walk-off win Thursday night. Rast was 3-for-4 on the night to lead the home team at the dish.
“It’s a pretty good adrenaline rush and all that matters is we won,” Rast said. “Coaches trust me in that situation.”
Hart did not have his typical night at the plate as he was 0-for-3 going into that last at-bat. But with one out in the seventh, he pushed a perfect bunt towards first base and past the pitcher. He reached easily as no one had a shot to get him. Hart then stole second but after a strikeout, first base was open with Crump coming up and two outs. The signal was quickly given to put Crump on and that set the stage for Rast’ heroics.
“He’s been hitting the ball well,” Northwestern coach Mitch Walters said. “We’d like to have no other guy up there. Those top five guys have been swinging the bat real well for us.”
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The Northwestern pitching staff has some people in new prominent roles this year and they are growing into them. Trojans hurlers pitched out of trouble all night. Starter Will Chitwood and Justin Peddy combined to walk nine batters on the night but only two of those would come back around to score. Chitwood only allowed three hits in four innings and two runs while striking out three.
“We know what Nation Ford’s got,” Walters said. “They’re a very good ballclub and we knew it was going to be a battle. Will’s our number one and that’s why we sent him out there. No way that was his best stuff but he gave us four innings and that’s what we asked. This was our first game we’ve had to battle. It was competitive and that’s what we want. That crowd’s not going to lay down.”
The Falcons jumped on the Trojans quickly in the second with a lead-off walk of Dalton Helms followed by base hits from Spencer Pecarro and Jacob Wright. Wright’s smash ricocheted off the first baseman’s glove into right field to score Helms. Pecarro later scored from third on a throw from Rast behind Wright at first. However, there could have been more in the inning as Chitwood walked two more but Hunt lined out to short with the bases loaded to limit the damage and keep the score 2-0. Cole Avery doubled to lead off the Falcons’ third and went to third on a wild pitch, but with one out Pecarro appeared to miss a squeeze sign and Avery was a dead duck at home.
The Trojans woke up the bats in the home third. Drew Patrick led off with a base hit and stole second. Ryan Hardee put the Trojans on the board with a one-out base hit to right to plate Patrick. Hardee was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Crump, who was 2-for-3, followed with a ground ball through the middle to score Hardee and tie the game. After Rast reached on a base hit off the third baseman’s glove that allowed Crump to go to third, Colton Pagoota brought Crump in with a groundout to second to put the Trojans up 3-2.
Nation Ford would knot things up in the fifth with two one-out walks and a double to the left field corner by Helms. But with runners on second and third, Pecarro hit a little dribbler in front of the plate and new pitcher Peddy fielded it and flipped it to Rast who tagged Avery sliding at the plate. Northwestern threatened to take the lead in the sixth with runners at second and third and two outs. But Josh Jones, who pitched well in defeat, struck out pinch-hitter Eric Taylor to end the inning. Jones went the distance, gave up four runs, struck out two, and his only walk was intentional. Stuart Hodge came on in the seventh for the Trojans and sat the Falcons down 1-2-3 to get the win.
Northwestern 4, Nation Ford 3
Will Chitwood, Justin Peddy, and Stuart Hodge. Josh Jones. WP - Hodge. LP - Jones. 2B - Cole Avery, Dalton Helms (NF). Leading hitters: NW - Garrett Rast 3-4, RBI; Ryan Hardee 2-4, R, RBI; Josh Crump 2-3, BB, RBI, R; NF - Spencer Pecarro 1-2, BB, R; Justin Borland 3 BB. Records - Northwestern 5-0, 4-0 Region 3-AAAA; Nation Ford 1-2 Region 3-AAAA.