Senior day at Catonsville High didn’t start off positively, but it ended with a celebration at home plate as the Comets greeted senior Nick Eiswert after he blasted a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Comets (3-6) a 9-7 victory over Hereford (3-6).
Senior Josh Tingler, who was on first base after getting hit by pitch, had a nice view of the clout.
“Nick is a big power guy and off the bat I knew he hit it well,” Tingler said. “I thought it had a chance to go over, but I knew for sure it was over his head, so I was scoring either way.”
Eiswert was glad to get a second opportunity after a foul pop in play between home and third base was not caught on the second pitch of the at bat.
“I was looking back trying to see if they would make the play, luckily they didn’t,” Eiswert said.
Catonsville head coach Eric Warm had a clear view of the foul ball.
“When he hit the foul ball and it dropped in giving him a new life, I said giving him a second chance is a dangerous thing and he obviously took advantage of that situation,” Warm said.
Eiswert almost went deep in the bottom of the fifth inning when he hit a sacrifice fly to deep right to give the Comets a 7-6 lead.
“I just miss-hit that one,” Eiswert said. “It came off the end of the bat, but it still carried pretty far, far enough to get that runner home, but I barreled the home run up.”
Eiswert (3-for-3, 4 RBIs), had a checked swing infield single in his first at bat when the Comets took advantage of four walks and a wild pitch and scored two runs to tie the game at 2-2.
Hereford bumped the lead to 6-2 in the top of the second inning when the Comets made two errors and the Bulls got a triple from Jack O’Reilly and doubles from Ryan Elseroad and Drew Kinsey.
“Guys come ready to hit. No doubt about that,” Hereford coach Ric Evans said.
Warm was just happy to see his squad settle down after a rocky first two innings.
“We gave up six runs in the first two innings off of errors and mistakes and strikeouts and passed balls, so it took us two innings,” Warm said. “We hadn’t practiced since Friday, so it took us a little while to get it together.”
They got it together thanks to some stellar relief pitching from junior off-speed specialist Luke Kelly and some outstanding outfield defense.
Kelly allowed only three hits and one run in five innings, while striking out five and walking one.
“He kept us in there,” Eiswert said. “When you are throwing off-speed for strikes in high school you are going to be successful.”
Eiswert made four putouts behind Kelly and Tingler made two, including an outstanding running catch deep in center field to end the fifth inning.
“Off the bat, it was just tailing and I just had enough room to make the grab,” Tingler said. “I made the catch and all my momentum was going forward, so I hit the fence and luckily it was a net and not a wall.”
Warm has seen that act before from his senior flychasers.
“Eiswert and Tingler all year have been so solid out there,” he said. “Every fly ball it’s easy on the coach’s heart watching those guys.”
Warm also praised a defensive play by right fielder Matt Lauer, who backpedaled and made a catch over his head after back-to-back doubles by Mike Timmerman and Kinsey had tied the game at 7-7 with no outs in the top of the seventh.
On the play, Lauer gunned a throw into second and they doubled off the runner, who had left the base early.
“Matt made a nice catch in right field and made a good throw,” Warm said.
The Comets, who took advantage of 13 Hereford walks and two hit batsmen, began their comeback from the early four-run deficit with a run in the bottom of the second when Lauer scored on a wild pitch after a one-out walk.
In the fourth inning, the Comets tied it at 6-all with three runs.
A walk by Caleb Hess and single by Tingler preceded an RBI single by Eiswert. Tingler and Eiswert both scored on wild pitches.
“We capitalized on their mistakes,” Tingler said.
A familiar scenario for Hereford coach Evans.
“We’ve been walking too many guys all year,” Evans said. “That’s what has killed us. We battled, but we can’t give up the walks.”
Meanwhile, Warm was confident his relief pitcher could close out the game.
“He was dealing and even after the two doubles, we were ready,” Warm said. “His pitch count wasn’t very high and he was having success and we got what we needed out of him.”
The victory put the Comes in a position to earn a number three seed in the playoffs, if they can close out the season with a win at Perry Hall on Thursday.
“We put ourselves in a better position by winning this game,” Warm said.
Others joining Eiswert, Tingler and Lauer as seniors celebrating their final home game were: Ryan Bruno, Kevin Buck, Aidan Callinan, Ashton Huling, Max Johnson, and Matt Wilson.