WILMINGTON – St. Elizabeth’s baseball team had at least two runners on base in six of the final seven innings of its nine-inning affair with Newark Charter on April 20, but after scoring twice in the third, the Vikings were hamstrung in every attempt to plate another. A combination of shaky baserunning, good defense and plain bad luck conspired against the home team.
But that ended in the ninth, when Nate Moyer’s check swing single to right-center scored Brett Brooks with the winning run in a 3-2 decision over the Patriots, who entered the contest at Canby Park with a six-game winning streak and ranked eighth and fifth in two of the three major statewide polls. Moyer’s hit brought jubilation – and a bit of relief – out of the Vikings, who had watched multiple other opportunities to score evaporate.
David Hazelton, the fourth pitcher of the afternoon for St. Elizabeth, overcame an error in the top of the seventh to set the Vikings up in the bottom half. Brooks, hitting in the eighth spot, worked a one-out walk off Newark Charter pitcher Ellis Dorr, and two wild pitches advanced him to third. Pat Harkins also walked, and Thomas was given an intentional pass to load the bases.
Moyer swung through one off-speed pitch and was slightly fooled by the next, but his swing was enough to send it over the infield. The Vikings streamed out of the first-base dugout, and Hazelton was there to lift Moyer over his head.
“I’m on first, so I’m just hoping for a little knock, at least some contact so hopefully we can get the run in this time because I was tired,” said Thomas, who reached base three times. “It was time to go home.”
For a while St. Elizabeth had to wonder if that moment would ever come.
In the fifth, Brooks earned a one-out walk off Patriots starter Logan Vivian, and after a flyout, Thomas reached on a fielding error, putting runners at the corners. Thomas waltzed off first and waited for Vivian to get him in a rundown. As that unfolded, Brooks took off for the plate, but shortstop Alfred Holliday threw him out at home.
Moyer singled to open the sixth, but he was gunned down at third when Hazelton followed with another single. That disappointment paled in comparison to what happened in the seventh. The Vikings loaded the bases with nobody out on a pair of singles sandwiched around a Newark Charter error. Dorr got one with a strikeout, bringing Thomas to the plate. The Patriots brought their outfielders in shallow, and that paid off. Thomas hit a laser to centerfielder Brett Callahan, who was able to double the runner off second base.
St. Elizabeth threatened again in the eighth, as Moyer reached on another error and Hazelton’s sacrifice bunt attempt rolled past Dorr for a single. But a strikeout, fly ball and ground out ended the inning.
The Vikings took a 2-0 lead in the third. Vivian retired the first seven batters he faced, but Brooks walked, and Harkins drove him in with a long triple over the head of the leftfielder. Thomas singled to right to bring Harkins home.
Brooks and Harkins combined to reach base six times in eight plate appearances, something not lost on Thomas, the leadoff hitter.
“All around, we had really good at bats. But the bottom of the lineup, they had really good at bats, and big at bats,” he said.
The Patriots answered with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Ryan Walsh drilled a triple to right with one out in the fourth off Vikings starter Hayden Trimarco, and Kevin Buglio singled him in. In the fifth, reliever Craig Small walked Dorr and Zach Lesher, and Thomas came in to pitch. Callahan greeted him with a run-scoring single, but that would be Newark Charter’s last hit of the afternoon.
Hazelton pitched two innings of relief and picked up the win for the Vikings, who have won four straight to improve to 5-3. They travel to Claymont on Saturday for a noon start at Archmere.
Vivian and Dorr scattered 10 hits for the Patriots (6-2), who suffered their first loss after six straight wins. They will try to start a new streak on Saturday against Caravel at Leroy Hill Park at 3 p.m.