That eerie sense of confidence turned into a pair of remarkable late-game comebacks as the Raiders had the Huskies with their backs to the wall twice only to see the hosts rally for two runs in the bottom of the seventh and overcome another deficit in extra innings.
With runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Graham MacMillan stepped up to the plate and ripped a laser over the left-field fence. The three-run walk-off home run sent the home crowd home happy as Reno secured a 7-5 victory to earn a date today with sixth-seeded Damonte Ranch, a 1-0 upset winner over Bishop Manogue.
“Both teams battled. I was proud with how our kids played. They played to win the game,” Reed baseball coach John Phenix said. “We tried to shut down Reno in certain situations and it worked. A kid like that, throw a fastball to him and he turned on it. But we had a kid do that too in Beau (Tittensor). It was a great performance. Nothing to be ashamed of going into tomorrow.”
Reed looked poised to earn its own upset win several times Tuesday. In the top of the ninth, senior leadoff hitter Ryan Butler capped his three-hit day with a single to center field. Butler swiped second base, leading to an intentional walk to Tittensor to keep the double play intact with one out.
A.J. Silva hit a hard groundball up the middle that took a tough hop and went into the outfield, allowing Butler to break the tie and give Reed a 5-4 edge.
However, a controversial call at second base involving Tittensor and Silva led to a double play after Tittensor was caught in a rundown. The umpires said both runners occupied second base, while Reed fans and coaches argued that it appeared Tittensor was tagged out before reaching the base.
But the Raiders still enjoyed the one-run edge and the Huskies were down to their final three outs again.
This time, Zach Paquette led off the bottom of the ninth with a high chopper deep in the hole to shortstop for an infield base hit. A sacrifice bunt moved him up to second and Reed chose to intentionally walk R.J. Bush, who already had a double and single to his credit.
MacMillan made the Blue and Gold pay, as he blasted an 0-1 offering from Reed relief pitcher Jake Means for the game-winning homer. Means will likely get the starting nod today against Manogue in a ‘loser-goes-home’ matchup at 4 p.m. on the Miners’ home field.
Tuesday’s game was a far cry from the two teams’ league series last week in which the Huskies outscored the Raiders 19-2.
Reed starting pitcher Mark Nowaczewski rebounded nicely. After allowing nine runs on 10 hits a week ago, the junior right-hander shut down Reno for five of the seven innings he worked.
After Troy O’Connor gave the visitors a 1-0 lead with an opposite field solo homer in the third, the Huskies went ahead 2-1 in the fourth.
Bush’s one-out single started the rally. MacMillan followed with a single to right field, but the throw to third was off target and Bush rushed home on the error. MacMillan ended up on third and scored on a Kellen Richards’ RBI single up the middle.
O’Connor, who didn’t face Reno starting pitcher Vinnie Koci last week, continued to make Reed coaches looks smart for including him in the starting lineup for the playoff opener. O’Connor started the top of the fifth frame with a double to the base of the fence in center field. He later tied the game at 2-2 when Reno didn’t pull in its infield defense and Tanner Paris grounded out to shortstop for the second out.
An error in the top of the sixth allowed the Raiders to take a 3-2 lead on what would have been the third out of the inning.
Fate continued to look like it was on Reed’s side as Tittensor tattooed a 1-2 pitch with two outs in the top of the seventh and cleared the fence in left, pushing the Raiders ahead 4-2 in the seventh.
But that just set the stage for Reno’s first comeback.
Nowaczewski scattered six hits through the first six innings, but the Huskies tagged him for three more in the bottom of the seventh.
After inducing a groundout to the leadoff batter of the inning, Nowaczewski allowed an infield hit to No. 9 batter Tyler McElroy. Garrett Hampson then laced a double just inside the left-field line that rolled all the way down into the corner, driving in McElroy from first base.
Austin Atkerson came off the bench to pinch hit and he was beaned by a 3-2 pitch. Grant Kukuk followed with the game-tying single, sending the game into extra innings with the teams deadlocked at 4-4.
Nowaczewski started the eighth inning but gave up a leadoff single and was pulled in favor of Means. Nowaczewski went seven-plus innings, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits, while walking three and striking out four. Neither he nor Koci factored in the decision. Koci also pitched to one batter in the eighth and had the same exact line except the Reno hurler only had one walk to go with his four strikeouts.
Bush relieved him in the eighth inning and picked up the pitching win.
Bush, Hampson and MacMillan each had two hits in the winning cause.
Silva and Spencer Jones both contributed a pair of singles to join O'Connor and Butler as Raiders with multiple hits.