Garner’s baseball team, a resilient bunch all season, needed every bit of that bounce-back ability Wednesday in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
The Trojans, down 4-0 after five innings, rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and three in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Scotland County 5-4 at Trojan Park.
The Trojans started the bottom of the seventh inning with a walk but were down to their last out with two runners on base. Unlike several earlier opportunities when Garner failed to come up with the big hit, the Trojans came through when it mattered most.
Nick Gallogly cut the margin to 4-3 with an RBI single to right field, scoring Cody Jones, who had led off the inning with a walk. A walk loaded the bases and senior first baseman Logan Torruella stepped into the batter’s box.
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Torruella hit a high chopper that the third baseman fielded. At first, Scotland’s Logan House took a couple of steps toward third base then decided to throw the ball to first base. His throw sailed over the first baseman’s head and two runs came home for the one-run win.
“I just had to believe in myself,” Touruella said. “I had to believe that I would come through in that moment.”
It was just another example of the resiliency of the Trojans, Torruella said.
“This team from the start of the year when we started 0-2, nothing has come easy,” Torruella said. “We got picked fourth or fifth in the conference and we tied for first. There has been huge resilience the whole season. We just had to believe in ourselves the last two innings and know that we had outs to give and that we weren’t going to go down easy.”
Garner advanced to face West Johnston in the second round. The two teams finished tied for first in the Great Neuse River 4A Conference regular-season race.
Against Scotland, Garner starting pitcher Nick Phillips retired the first nine Fighting Scots. Scotland’s bats came alive the next two innings when the Scots bunched seven hits to score two runs each in the fourth and fifth.
Shane Ward came on to pitch for Garner in the fifth, allowing two inherited runners to score. He got the final two outs of the innings and went the rest of the way without allowing a run.
Meanwhile, the Trojans began battling back.
In the sixth, Grayson Lee and Kameron Harris started the inning with back-to-back singles and freshman shortstop Tyler Gillespy ripped an RBI double deep to center field to get the Trojans on the board. Garner’s second run in the inning scored on a Scotland error.
Garner had left the bases loaded in the fourth inning and left two runners on in the fifth inning, frustrated by Scotland starter Grant English.
“One of those night where we definitely left some opportunities on the table, but at the end of the day, we had some seniors get some big hits in some big spots,” Garner coach Derik Goffena said. “I am very proud of the way we didn’t give up.
“I thought their starter did a great job. He got some big strikeouts when he needed to get some big strikeouts. We felt like we had chances but their guy did a good job of stopping those chances.”
The Trojans took care of business in the final two innings, however.
“This win was great,” Goffena said. “This team has overachieved more than any team that we’ve ever had. I’ve been honest with them. It’s not the most talented team we’ve had by a long shot, but they fight, they claw and they scrap and they just don’t give up.
“I’ll take this group of guys any day of the week regardless of who we are playing.”