Evans’ slam powers Orange into semifinals
Dispirited, down three runs and heading into the final two innings, the Orange Panthers’ hope for a comeback win were riding on a sting and a prayer.
And Orange relief pitcher Jon Evans came through in storybook fashion, stinging a fastball for a towering grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 7-5 win over a stunned Eastern Guilford squad that looked to have the game under control Tuesday night.
“In the dugout, I was praying, but something kept coming into my mind that you’re going to do something, you’re going to hit the ball,” Evans said of his sixth-inning heroics. “He gave me high and inside, and as soon as I hit the ball, I was like, ‘I hope that’s gone,’ and I was praying, ‘God, let it make it over.’”
Trailing 5-2, Evans’ game-winning shot was followed with an insurance run on back-to-back doubles by right fielder Nick Debo and first baseman Andrew Toney.
Evans’ shot over the left field fence was his first home run this season, handing him his first win on the mound. He set a school record earlier this season with 10 saves.
Evans was quick to share the praise.
“Just having a defense behind you like that gives you confidence on the mound, and I have a lot of confidence when I have my teammates behind me backing me up on everything,” he said.
He credited catcher Joe Vance for calling a good game.
“Whatever he calls, I’m throwing,” Evans said. “Fastball, and then I saw a curveball and I shook it off twice and he was just, curveball, and that’s what got me the strikeout (to end the game).”
Much to the relief of Orange coach Dean Dease.
“They thought they could still come back,” Dease said. “I was sort of thinking like, ‘What am I going to say to them, because I may have blown this game with some pitching changes and moves that I made,’ but they bailed me out.
“What I really liked was they fought at the plate, they battled in their at-bats (against starter Andrew Robinson). That guy was very, very crafty, breaking balls and change-ups in all counts. He’d throw it at any time. We sort of knew that coming in, but telling (our players) and them being patient and actually doing it was a whole different thing.”
After falling behind 5-2 in the fifth, Evans said spirits were sinking in the Panthers dugout.
“We told each other this is not the end of the season,” he said. “The seniors taking control and getting our team pumped up (made the difference).”
Orange got on the board first with some two-out, clutch hitting by Collin Pope. The Panthers center fielder knocked in two runs after third baseman Garrett Cloer and left fielder Brandon Wood banged back-to-back singles.
But the Wildcats tied it in the top of the third after Ryan Hackett singled, pitcher Andrew Robinson doubled and Caleb Robinson drove them home with a soft liner just over the outstretched glove of leaping third baseman Garrett Cloer. Wood misplayed the ball for an error to allow Robinson to score from third.
Eastern Guilford jumped in front in the top of the fifth with Luke Robinson’s two-run smash over the center field wall.
Center fielder Ryan Hackett doubled down the third base line to start the rally. Andrew Robinson walked but was erased at second when shortstop Caleb Robinson hit into a fielder’s choice, moving Hackett to third. Hackett scored on a wild pitch by reliever Braden Weber and Caleb Robinson advanced to second before Luke Robinson’s homer.
Orange 7, E. Guilford 5
Andrew Robinson (L), Caleb Robinson (5), Marquee Johnson (5) and Luke Robinson; Orange, Jordan Toney, Braden Weber (4), Jon Evans (4) and Joe Vance. WP—Evans (1-0); LP—A. Robinson. Leading hitters—Eastern Guilford, Ryan Hackett 2-4, Andrew Robinson 1-3 (2B, RBI), Luke Robinson 2-3 (HR, 2 RBI); Orange, Jon Evans 1-4 (HR, 4 RBI), Nick Debo 2-3, Andrew Toney 2-3 (2B, RBI), Collin Pope 2-3 (2B, 2 RBI).
Records—Orange 27-2, Eastern Guilford 17-12.