Reservoir junior Cole Folkenberg hadn’t pitched in a game yet this season. However, coach Adam Leader had no hesitation turning to him in a big moment.
“Cole at the plate, in the field, on the mound, he’s got ice in his veins,” Leader said. “He’s a good kid who works hard and we have full confidence in him.”
Long Reach was in the midst of a furious three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh when Leader put Folkenberg on the mound. He got the first out on a sacrifice bunt, then got a strikeout and induced a pop up back to him to end the game. The junior pumped his fist as he jogged off the mound, sealing an 8-7 win.
Long Reach rallied to within one and had the tying run on first when Leader put in Folkenberg, giving him one simple message: pitch to contact.
“We’re not a strikeout team, strike everybody out team. Pitch to contact and let your defense do the work,” Leader said. “We got your back, just a lot of confidence in him. We talked to the defense and let them be prepared. I think they pumped him up too being behind him and they were pretty loud, which was great, too.”
“I knew what I was going to do,” Folkenberg said. “I came in just to pitch to contact. I have a lot of faith in our defense and it obviously feels great. When I was in the field, I was starting to get down on myself, but to come back and win like that is always a good feeling.”
While it ended it a close game, Reservoir (3-1) jumped out to a 6-0 lead. The Gators mounted a two-out rally in the third, scoring a pair of runs. Zack Gaynor started it with a single, followed by a double from Quinn Dean, his first of two extra-base hits on the afternoon. Both runners later scored on a high chopper to first by Nick Usher, as the Lightning’s throw went awry.
Starting pitcher Jack Lloyd escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the third to preserve the two-run lead. Reservoir added to its lead in the fourth, turning a lead-off walk and hit batter into two runs.
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Dean later doubled in another run before scoring himself on a wild pitch for a 6-0 lead. Dean finished the day with two RBIs.
“I was using my hands a lot and I was trying to tell that to my teammates,” Dean said of his approach. “I was really good with my approach and that helped our team.”
Long Reach responded in the bottom of the fifth, taking advantage of Reservoir’s defensive miscues. Bobby Yates and Matthew Brown scored on Seth Rosenfeld’s hit to center, which was misplayed by the Gators’ center fielder. Rosenfeld scored later in the inning on a single by Aidan Watt.
Both teams exchanged runs in the sixth before Reservoir pushed its lead to 8-4 in the top of the seventh.
With the heart of its order coming up, Long Reach began the comeback.
Aidan West launched a solo home run to right field, then J.P. Tennant and Watt laced back-to-back hits setting up runners on second and third with no outs. Ethan Austraw ripped a base hit to center field, bringing the Lightning back within one. However, Austraw’s single was their final hit of the game as Folkenberg shut the door on their furious comeback attempt.
“You saw that energy start to pick up in the seventh, it was probably the loudest it was all game,” Long Reach coach Anthony Lyon said. “It’s tough because I go and tell them in the outfield, ‘Guys we can’t be having this conversation in right field all the time.’ You can’t start the game behind, you got to start energetic being loud from first pitch all the way through. That’s kind of been the story the last couple of games.”