Mendez hits walk-off for Panthers
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Today's teens have a word to describe the ultimate confidence -- swag.
And coming up to the plate in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning, well, it doesn't hurt to have someone at the plate with lots of it.
Hoosick Falls right fielder Alex Mendez confidently cracked a game-winning single on the first pitch to lead the Panthers to a 6-5 extra-inning walk-off over Tamarac on Saturday.
"I think the young ones call it swag. He has a little swag, sometimes too much, but today it worked out," said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac. "I dont think he feels a lot of pressure, he's just out there, loose as a goose and in that situation that's what you want."
After Hoosick Falls tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth, the teams traded zeroes into the ninth.
Whitman went 1-2-3 in the top half of the inning, while Tamarac reliever Dillon Maxon immediately got into trouble. Garrett Wright started the inning with a walk and Shayne Richard, after trying to bunt the first couple pitches took a walk himself on four straight pitches.
Peter Muratorri got a bunt down on the 2-1 pitch to move up the runners and set the stage for Mendez, who ended up 3-for-4 on the day.
"He put it right where I like it, so I took the first one and hit it," Mendez said.
"We talk about [being aggressive] all the time," Lilac said. "With runners in scoring position, they should be nice and selfish and get as many RBIs as they want. He jumped on it, no doubt."
To get to that point, Hoosick Falls had to comeback after Tamarac's Jonzel Neal crushed a two-run double to re-take the lead for the Bengals. His previous at-bat had been a strikeout and Neal had thrown his bat in frustration.
"This team has maturity to play the game right," said Tamarac coach Guy Changa. "I talked to him in the dugout, you can't show that emotion. But he came back with a big hit."
In the bottom of the inning, Muratorri singled, then took second on a throwing error. Mendez sacrificed his teammate to third with one out and Tom Peabody cracked a solid single to left to drive home Muratorri to tie the game.
"It was big to tie it that quick," Lilac said. "They didn't have a chance to think about [the deficit]."
Hoosick got a runner on second in the seventh, but couldn't score, sending the game to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Tamarac got two runners on, but a nice defensive play by shortshop Tyler Rondeau helped the Panthers out of the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, an umpire's judgment call doomed the Panthers.
Mendez opened the inning off Tamarac starter Nick Zotto with a double to center. Peabody came up and bunted toward first and was tagged in the baseline, but the umpire ruled interference, calling Peabody out and forcing Mendez back to second after determining Mendez hadn't reached third before the interference.
After a vehement arguement from Lilac, Rondeau walked and Brandon Hodges was intentionally passed to load the bases, but Alex Labarge grounded out to strand three runners.
"We got a ground ball that would have won it," Lilac said. "I dont have a big problem with the [interference call], we were trying to sacrifice in the first place. But I think Alex was at third."
But Whitman made it a moot point, striking out hitters 12 aqnd 13 and getting a ground out to short on his 120th and final pitch.
"I was definitely tired, but I wanted to get the team a win," Whitman said. "Nine innings is nine innings, but I dug down deep and [grinded] it out."
Whitman allowed five runs, but only one earned, on six hits. He walked two and fanned 13. He threw 88 strikes, getting first-pitch strikes on 27 of his 38 hitters he faced.
"He has a lot of poise and that's probably his best attribute," Lilac said. "It was definitely a gutsy performance."
The Panthers have four games left.
"We got a couple wins this week, I like the position we're in," Lilac said.
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