Griffons stun Clarinda with ninth inning rally
A wild ninth inning rally propelled the Nevada Griffons to a 7-6 victory over the Clarinda A's Thursday night in Iowa.
After taking two of three games from the A's, Nevada improves to 6-6 overall (5-6 MINK League).
Trailing 5-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth and the base paths empty, things appeared bleak for the Griffons. Facing southpaw closer Cody Hinson, Nevada two-hole hitter Nick Guaragna singled to left field.
Cole Johnson followed in the order, quickly falling behind in the count no balls and two strikes. Johnson battled back, and with the count at two balls and two strikes, blooped a single into left-center field.
The Griffons continued to pepper Hinson with singles, as cleanup hitter Tyler Pagano laced a pitch into left field, loading the bases for Kainulu Pitoy. Pitoy never had to take the bat off his shoulder as he drew a four-pitch walk, scoring Guaragna.
Now trailing 5-4, pinch-hitter Adam Eskil found himself down in the count. After working the count full, Eskil's check-swing on the payoff pitch resulted in ball four, as Johnson crossed home plate to even the score at 5-5.
Controversy ensued, as Hinson demanded an explanation from the home plate umpire on the full-count check-swing. The home plate umpire issued a stern warning to Hinson, and ordered him back to the mound, as players and coaches are not allowed to argue balls and strikes.
The Clarinda collapse was complete courtesy of a Judah Zickafoose 2-RBI double scoring Pagano and Pitoy to hand the Griffons a 7-5 advantage. After the dust settled, Hinson pointed and barked out to the home plate umpire "This one is on you," according to the local radio call of the game.
Hinson was promptly ejected from the contest and now awaits his fate from the MINK League office with the possibility of a suspension looming.
With runners at the corners and facing relief pitcher Matthew Kirk, Griffons catcher Jack McPhail grounded out to end the inning.
Entering his second inning of work, Nevada relief pitcher Tyler Butcher picked up the inning's first out courtesy of a Mondesi Gutierezz ground out. Butcher then encountered some turbulence, walking three and four-hole hitters Wells Davis and Eric Wagaman.
With Parker Phillips in the batters box, a Butcher wild pitch moved Davis and Wagaman up 90-feet and into scoring position. A Parker sacrifice fly to right-center field plated Davis while also advancing Wagaman to third, leaving the Griffons clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Nevada however, felt that Wagaman left second base too early. On Butcher's appeal throw he nearly uncorked the ball into center field.
Shortstop Tyler Wetrich was able to make a potentially game-saving grab, leaping high into the air and bailing Butcher out on the near-errant throw to prevent Wagaman from scoring. On the appeal, Wagaman was ruled safe at third base.
With two outs, Alex Sala hit a slow grounder to Wetrich at shortstop. Wetrich fielded and came up firing to first base. This time it was Johnson who bailed out Wetrich on a shaky throw ---- as Johnson made an Eric Hosmer-like Gold Glove pick out of the dirt for the game's final out.
The Griffons scored a run in the second, and then went on top 2-0 in the top of third after a Davis infield error allowed Johnson to score from third base.
The A's struck back in the bottom half of the frame, scoring three runs, all charged to Nevada starting pitcher Jarred Scott. The damage came after Scott issued back-to-back four-pitch walks to Alex Henwood and Gutierezz.
With 2-outs, a Wagaman single to right field scored Henwood as the A's trailed 2-1. Clarinda went on top 3-2 via a Phillips 2-RBI triple scoring Gutierezz and Wagaman.
Meanwhile, the Griffons added a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game 3-3, while the A's tacked on two runs in the bottom half of the inning to recapture the lead at 5-3.
The bottom of the seventh turned out to be a critical inning as Clarinda was unable to push across a run after loading the bases with no outs.
The Griffons managed to get back-to-back infield grounders, forcing out the lead runner at home plate on both plays. With two down in the inning, Griffons relief pitch Jack Burk punched out Sala on three pitches to conclude the inning.
For Nevada, Butcher worked two innings in his relief appearance, allowing an earned run, while walking three and striking out a batter as he notched his first victory of the season. Scott tossed four innings, allowing three earned runs and three hits to go along with three walks and two strike outs.
At the plate for Nevada, Guaragna was 3-for-5 with a run scored, increasing his batting average to .381. Johnson was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, raising his batting average to .410. Zickafoose was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Pitoy was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
The Griffons continue their extended road trip as they face the Joplin Outlaws tonight at 7 p.m.