Buhler was one out away from sweeping Winfield in a baseball doubleheader that would’ve pushed the Crusaders into first place in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division III.
But league-leader Winfield rallied after Logan Mays reached base after a seventh-inning strikeout. Will Adler tied the game with a two-out, two-strike single that scored Mays off Chase Shantz for a 4-4 tie.
Winfield scored four eighth-inning runs for an 8-4 victory off Buhler’s relievers and a split of Thursday’s doubleheader. Winfield (10-4, 6-2 AVCTL) held off Buhler (7-5, 3-3 AVCTL) to maintain first place. The Crusaders rallied from a 5-3 deficit to win the opener 8-7.
Buhler coach John Neill said Shantz got exactly what he wanted when Mays chased a pitch out of the strike zone that eluded catcher Zac Stiles.
“It was a tough pitch. We want the batter to chase a pitch like that,” Neill said. “Zac usually blocks those. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that time.”
Mays barely beat a throw by Stiles to steal second base. Adler singled down the third-base line for the tie.
“Will (Adler) came up big for us,” said Winfield coach Tyson Kendrick. “He pitched a great first game too. That was a big win for our league race. We stayed calm and stayed with what we practice. Now, we’re in control whether we finish first.”
Winfield roughed up relievers Dustin Rush and Jace Williams for six hits in the eighth inning. Caleb Tapia, Mays and Clayton Bauer delivered RBI singles and Mays scored on a wild pitch.
“We hit the ball hard at people, but baseball has a funny way of turning around,” Kendrick said. “We had some balls that shouldn’t fallen in, but they did.”
Winfield’s first three runners scored after drawing walks. Bauer scored on Michael Kent’s fourth-inning groundball for a 1-0 lead. Garrett Suttles drove in Will Adler and Adler scored on a wild pitch in the sixth after they drew sixth-inning walks.
Freshman starter Luke Boline shut out the Crusaders for five innings. But the Crusaders rallied with a four-run sixth off Boline and reliever Michael Kent. Williams, Stiles and Hunter Ogburn delivered RBI singles and Stiles scored the go-ahead run on Dakota Wolf’s groundout.
The Crusaders rallied in similar fashion to surprise Andale earlier this season.
“We seem to get our timing once we see a pitcher the third time,” Neill said. “We just need to start that earlier. I like the way we’re gaining momentum and putting big innings together.”
The Crusaders committed five errors in each game, but kept battling.
“We’re getting closer to being a better baseball team,” Neill said. “We’re getting good pitching and timely hitting. We just need to play better defense.”
Buhler survived to win the opener 8-7 despite five errors with three Crusaders thrown out at home plate.
The Crusaders rallied from a 5-3 deficit with a five-run sixth inning. Stiles walked and Ogburn singled to set up a bunt by Derrick Simmons. Reliever Brett Roark threw to first baseman Ben Adler, who dropped the ball just as Simmons bumped into him and Stiles scored on the error.
Wolf’s single brought home Ogburn for a 5-5 tie. After Gus Quillin singled to load the bases, Tristan Hawkinson’s bases-loaded walk handed Buhler a 6-5 lead. Dillon Engelland’s bloop single scored Quillin for a 7-5 lead. Jace Williams singled to bring home Dalton Miller for an 8-5 lead as left fielder Blake Crandall gunned down Hawkinson at home on the play.
The Vikings rallied within 8-7 off tiring starter Dakota Wolf. Ben Adler’s single drove in Bauer and Will Adler scored on a wild pitch. But Wolf retired Kent and Jacob Byerley to strand the tying runner at second base.
Will Adler drove in Mays and pinch runner Suttles scored on an error for a 2-0 Winfield lead. Ogburn’s RBI single drove in Williams, but pinch runner Ethan White was gunned down by left fielder Crandall.
Pinch runner White scored on an error for a 2-2 tie, but Crandall threw out Derrick Simmons at home in the fourth. Buhler moved ahead 3-2 when Stiles reached on an error and scored on an error.
Winfield regained the lead with a three-run sixth inning. Bauer and Will Adler started with back-to-back doubles for a 3-3 tie. Kent’s RBI grounder drove in Adler for a 4-3 lead. Brett Roark’s RBI single gave the Vikings a 5-3 lead. Wolf worked out of trouble when he retired Tapia on a groundout to shortstop Williams.