By Spencer Hirsch |Staff Writer|
Brandon Day’s three-run walk-off home run on Saturday, Feb. 4 lifted the Coyotes to a 10-8 victory and a 2-1 series win over the Azusa Pacific Cougars.
The senior first baseman had a miscue on a groundball that was hit to him in the top of the sixth that could have turned into a double play and a relatively easy inning for senior left hand relief pitcher, Josh Lee.
The Cougars took advantage as they scored two runs to regain a one-run lead.
“Physically it wasn’t there for me in the field today, but I knew I would get a chance to redeem myself in the ninth,” said Day.
He did just that—with one swing of the bat.
On a 2-1 count, Day was looking for something he could drive. He got exactly what he wanted, as the Cougar right hand pitcher threw a fastball into his wheelhouse, up and in.
“That’s exactly what I was looking for. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. It felt good,” said Day.
Saturday’s contest was a fight to the finish, as the Cougars led the majority of the game.
They jumped out to an early 5-0 lead with the help of the long ball in the second and third innings, but the Coyotes fought back in the bottom of the third with four runs of their own, taking advantage of their opportunities with runners in scoring position.
Third baseman Darren Dworak sparked the offense in the bottom half of the third inning with the team’s first hit of the game.
“I was surprised I got a fastball because they were throwing me a lot of off-speed. I just reacted to it and hit it up the middle,” said Dworak.
The next four Coyote hitters got on base. The inning was capped off by a two RBI double by junior second baseman Curtis Cassise and a two RBI single by senior right fielder Edwin Mendoza.
Coyotes’ junior right-handed reliever Tony Guerra was put into a pressure cooker in the top of the ninth.
After two Cougars reached first and second base with no outs, head coach Don Parnell and pitching coach Kurt Stange decided to hand the ball to Guerra with hopes that he would keep it a one-run deficit going into the the bottom of the ninth.
Guerra delivered by striking out the Cougars’ big power hitter and getting two consecutive groundball outs.
“The first thing I thought about was preparation leads to success,” said Guerra.
He was well prepared for the Cougars’ power hitter, as he worked the game plan to perfection. Guerra worked him in and out of the zone, getting him to chase a slider for the huge strikeout.
Cassise led off the bottom of the ninth with a single.
Parnell thought about moving him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but he decided to let his guys swing away, as he had three consecutive power hitters coming up.
The decision paid off. Senior catcher Paul Eshleman singled to center field and Day capped it off with the game-winning three-run walk-off home run, giving Guerra his first win of the season.
“The key to coming back when you’re down early is to not panic and trust yourself. At our park runs will be scored, so you can’t get too up or down. You have to play the whole game,” said Parnell.
Dworak pointed to the team’s mental toughness as a key to the comeback victory.
“We have a never say die attitude. We always have a possibility to win at any time,” said Dworak.
Saturday’s game proved that the Coyotes will not surrender until the final out is recorded.