Bases loaded, bottom of the seventh inning, two outs, one run ball game. It’s the dream scenario for every child practicing baseball heroics.
That’s also the scene Middle Creek pitcher Diego Guerrero faced as he toed the rubber Tuesday night. One good pitch, and No. 23 Middle Creek would upset No. 10 Heritage in the first round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. One bad pitch, and the Huskies would walk off with the win.
He got Heritage to hit into infield chopper back toward him, and he calmly tossed the ball to first base for the final out, giving Middle Creek the 10-9 win.
“I haven’t pitched much recently, but when I was on the mound, I knew everybody had my back,” Guerrero said of his dugout singing “Seven Nation Army” while he fired toward home plate. “I was just pulling off their energy.”
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That out capped a large rally for the Mustangs (17-7), who were down 7-1 in the fourth inning. Heritage (19-6) built that lead from a two-run homer in the second inning and a bases-clearing triple in the fourth. But Middle Creek wouldn’t fold.
“We had a couple of guys in the dugout that brought everybody together,” Middle Creek coach Wesley King said. “It isn’t over til the last inning.”
The Mustangs tied the game 9-9 in the seventh inning, as Huskies pitcher Ryan Pifer couldn’t locate the strike zone. Guerrero said he absolutely knew his team would win with the momentum it had.
“I know my team,” Guerrero said. “I know we fight. When we get in that groove, we do everything we can to win. I knew we were going to make something happen.”
Instead of recording the routine third out, the Huskies fumbled the exchange at second base to give the Mustangs the go-ahead run.
“I was running Dylan Maggerd, and he was busting it really hard, and I think that pressure, shortstop may have taken his eye off it,” King said.
With the lead, King turned to Guerrero to shut the door.
“He’s ice water,” King said. “Nothing fazes him. He’s been so special to Middle Creek, our program. I didn’t want anybody else out there.”
It wasn’t completely easy for Guerrero, though. He came in with men on first and second, and later threw a passed ball to put two men in scoring position. He carried all the pressure after intentionally loading the bases, but he responded with a strikeout and then the final out.
While the Mustangs were celebrating the comeback playoff win, the Huskies were coming to grips with the end of the season. Many players sat on the field, dejected and unwilling to leave the field for the last time. Some cried.
“These two programs are built pretty much the same,” Heritage coach Tony Piercy said. “Scrappy, offensive, sound execution-wise, no shutdown pitchers. I knew it was going to be a dog fight. We got what we expected.”