There was no way Wakefield centerfielder Frank LaGuardia was going to move away from the ball heading toward him in the batter’s box.
Not that he would have paid much attention to getting hit, anyway.
Setting off a raucous celebration, LaGuardia was hit by the pitch from Wake Forest-Rolesville pitcher Evan Tucker with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the game tied 2-2.
The play brought in Wakefield’s Tom DeArmitt for the rare walk-off hit-by-pitch, giving the Wolverines a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind win over the visiting Cougars.
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“I wanted to jump out of the way,” LaGuardia said, “but I had to take it; had to get the win.”
The wild ending to Friday’s game was created by a bizarre final inning for the Wolverines (14-7, 8-3 Cap Eight 4A).
After two scoreless innings, Wake Forest-Rolesville (12-5, 7-4) went ahead 2-0 after Corey Brookins’ two RBI single in the top of the third inning.
With the Cougars still leading 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wakefield’s Justin Sloan came to the plate with one out and no one on base. Sloan singled. So did Nick Trevino. DeArmitt then hit a two-run double to tie the game at 2-2.
The next batter, Courtney Crews, hit a fly ball to center that appeared it might be a routine fly out. But the ball was dropped, thus Wakefield avoided a two-out scenario.
Vance Vizcaino walked in the next at-bat, which loaded the bases. Jake Merzigian struck out, setting up the dramatic finish with LaGuardia’s hit-by-pitch.
When asked if he had ever been a part of a game that ended with a walk-off hit-by-pitch, Wakefield coach Ed Hall said: “If I have, I can’t remember one like that.”
While the ending may have been rare, the resiliency was nothing new for the Wolverines, Hall said.
Wakefield has battled back from a shaky 3-7 start to the season to now win 11 in a row.
“It’s kind of the character of this team,” Hall said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they’re resilient.”
Perhaps that never-say-die attitude was best exemplified by something Sloan told his teammates on the field during the top of the sixth inning, with the Wolverines down 2-0 and facing bases loaded with two outs.
“I said, ‘Don’t get out this game yet,’” he said.
The Wolverines took Sloan’s advice, and pulled off the comeback. Trevino, who helped start the rally in the seventh inning, put it succinctly.
“We knew we could come back,” he said, “We’ve done it before.”
Perhaps never in as an odd a fashion as this one, though.