Walk-Off Walk Lifts CCS Past CHSTEA In Ninth

Chargers' Neckula Strikes Out 10 In Seven Innings Of Work

  • Thursday, March 30, 2023
  • Danny Webb

On Major League Baseball’s opening day, the CCS Chargers couldn’t let the big leaguers have all the fun. Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the grim possibility of a home loss seemed likely until the Charger bats orchestrated a spirited comeback that finished with a walk-off base on balls in the bottom of the ninth.

Charger fans and Patriot fans alike filled the stands behind home and even more lounged in lawn chairs scattered up and down the baselines. They were joined by a cool breeze and rays of radiant sunshine, with clouds and precipitation left off the guest list.

To the disappointment of the Charger faithful, the CCS bats were dormant through the first five innings of the contest as Patriot pitcher Bryce Daniell was serving up a brilliant performance. Combating Daniell’s impressive outing was CCS sophomore Keegan Nieckula who relied on a lively fastball while mixing in quality offspeed to keep hitters off balance.

Nieckula struck out 10 in his seven innings of work, grinding through a couple of jams and working around some ill-timed errors from his defense.

“Pitching was awesome today,” said CCS head coach Ben Wharton. “We made a couple of errors in the field but he did a good job of minimizing those innings and not letting it get worse than it did.”

The most costly of those errors was committed by an outfielder who misplayed a fly ball that scored a pair of Patriots in the fifth inning. Fans groaned, aware that two runs might be plenty in a game that was being dominated by pitching. Nieckula soldiered on and completed the next two innings, allowing a sixth-inning run by way of a J.R. Ziemet double, and a seventh-inning run on an infield error.

Charger sophomore Drew Petty got CCS on the board with an RBI base hit in the sixth, but heading into the last half of the seventh, CCS was down to its final three outs, needing three runs to tie the game. Desperate for tough at-bats and a couple of clutch hits, the Chargers got a pair of base runners to start the frame when battery mates Nathan Lusk and Keegan Nieckula were walked by Brady Daniell, Bryce’s brother who had taken over in relief.

To the plate stepped William Wall, eager to atone for his defensive mistake that had gifted CSTHEA a precious run. In a full count, the ambiance tense as the drama ensued, Wall slashed a fastball down the right field line that rolled all the way to the wall for a two-run triple, cutting the Charger deficit to just one and rousing a formerly hushed dugout. Even with the big hit and all of the excitement, CCS still trailed by a run.

With a nimble courtesy runner standing at third, freshman Ju Hinton dug his cleats into the batter’s box. After eyeing his third-base coach for a moment, Hinton began an at-bat that had the potential to send the campus into a frenzy or send his team home on the losing side.

When the pitch came, Hinton abruptly squared around and laid down a gorgeous bunt toward third base that was good enough to not only drive in the game-tying run but wind up a base hit with the speedy Hinton beating the throw to first.

“The thing I love about baseball is that you can’t hold the ball. You can’t kneel it,” said Wharton. “You’ve got to get every out, so we talk about playing to the last out,” he added.

Wharton’s audacious safety squeeze call paid off and the game headed to extra innings.

After a scoreless eighth, and no action for the Patriots in their half of the ninth, CCS scratched and clawed their way to a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity to win the game. In the box again–Ju Hinton. Poised beyond his years, Hinton once again came through, drawing a walk to push across the game-winning run in literal walk-off fashion.

“Two great at-bats there,” said Johnson. “Keegan Nieckula and Ju Hinton both with two strikes, fighting off pitches, and not going out of the zone. A win’s a win so we’ll take it for sure,” he added.

Hinton’s two RBIs matched slugger William Wall who finished with three hits. The two, though polar opposites by physical dimensions, shared at least one vital piece of their DNA: the clutch gene.

Wall did solid work on the mound as well in relief of Nieckula, slinging a powerful fastball and a curveball that danced leisurely through the strike zone and missed barrels with consistency.

“We’ve struggled to score some runs, but we came alive when it mattered. Really proud,” said Wharton.

Coming off of four straight losses, CCS picked up an emotional win that they hope will generate positive momentum as we head into April.

SUMMARY

CSTHEA 000 021 100 – 4

CCS 000 001 301 – 5

Bry. Daniell, Bra. Daniell, and Ziemet; Nieckula, Wall (8), and Lusk.

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