While it may not have been as fulfilling as a walk-off hit, the Royals won a wild 16-15 game Saturday afternoon on a walk-off walk. Eastern Mennonite earned a two-day sweep of visiting Penn State-Harrisburg with the decision and stand at 5-2 after the completion of their season-opening homestand.
Saturday's game was wild, to say the least, as each team had a five-run inning and the lead changed hands five different times, including twice in the ninth.
The Royals took a 14-13 lead into the ninth, but the complexity of the game changed quickly when the Lions' Tyler Aug got a leadoff homerun off closer Joe Hall (Gladys, Va./Rustburg). The next batter tripled, but Hall settled down. He nearly got out of the inning with the score tied, but a two-out hit plated the runner and put Penn State-Harrisburg up 15-14.
The Royals did just as much damage to their opponent's closer, but in a much less convention manner. Griffin Stanley (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) led off the bottom of the ninth by reaching on a catcher's interference. It was the second time the Lions' catcher bumped Stanley during his swing for a free trip to first. After a sacrifice and strikeout, the men were down to their last out.
But EMU's senior-laden lineup came through.
Ryan Hedrick (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) shot a ball on the middle and Stanley chugged around to tie the score at 15-15. After a single from Kyle Mathews (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge), Penn State-Harrisburg again bobbled a chance to get out of the inning when Damon Frazier (Waynesboro, Va./Wilson Memorial) put a chopper up the middle. The Lions' shortstop mishandled the ball and then couldn't beat Mathews to second base, leaving the bases loaded.
Left fielder David Meehan (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem) then drew a four-pitch walk to push home the winning run, with the final ball teasing Lions' fans by just missing the inside edge of the plate.
It was a fitting ending for a game which saw a combined 40 hits and nine errors.
Even with the visitors scoring first, EMU broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the first inning. Frazier cleared the loaded bases with a big three-run double as the men went ahead 5-1.
The teams traded three-spots in the second, with Hedrick providing the big stick on a two-out, three-run homer to left to make it 8-4. It was the second longball of his career.
But Penn State-Harrisburg tied it up in the fourth, scoring four times with two outs, including three unearned runs. After the Royals went down in order, the visitors kept rolling with five more scores in the fifth to get a big lead at 13-8.
Eastern Mennonite got into their relievers to slow down the Lions, and then let their offense get back to work.
They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and ended up bringing in three runs. Meehan then tied it in the sixth with a two-run bomb to right center, matching Hedrick with the second of his career. The men then grabbed the 14-13 lead later in the inning, as Hall singled with two outs, Stanley reached on a catcher's interference and Zach Roberts (Stuarts Draft, Va./Riverheads) punched an RBI single up the middle.
The bullpens then combined for nine strikeouts to throw two scoreless innings to set up the dramatic ninth.
Penn State-Harrisburg ended up with a 24-16 advantage in hits, but the Royals were more efficient, leaving only seven men on base, compared to 15 for the Lions.
Hedrick finished 3-6 with three runs and four RBIs. Roberts also had a three-hit day. Frazier was 2-6 and accounted for three runs and three RBIs. Stanley scored three runs, while Meehan knocked in three, including the game-winner.
EMU's pitching staff combined for 16 strikeouts, their highest total since also getting 16 Ks in the 2013 season finale against Roanoke.
Relievers John Judy (Shanks, W.V./Hampshire), John Dudley (Raphine, Va./Riverheads), Spencer Laitinen (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton) and Tyler Campbell (Luray, Va./Luray) combined for nine strikeouts in 3.2 scoreless innings. Hall struck out three and allowed two runs in the ninth, but moved to 1-0 with the win.
Eastern Mennonite has a few days to savor the win before heading to Christopher Newport on Wednesday for their first road game of the year. Start time in Newport News, Va., is 2:00pm.
Coach Ben Spotts said he is still figuring out roles on his talented team: