FREWSBURG - Pat Caldwell hadn't seen a pitch, nor taken a swing, all day.
Sure, he'd stretched his legs earlier when he'd walked out to the bullpen with a teammate to loosen up the right arm, just in case Coach Jay Grann decided he needed him to take the mound later. Other than that, though, Caldwell's place on Wednesday afternoon was, for the most part, in the Frewsburg dugout.
Situations, however, can change quickly.
Pat Caldwell drills a game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning of Wednesday’s Division 2 baseball game against Portville. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Moments after 5-foot freshman Kole Brink had ripped a bases-loaded double down the right field line, plating two runners and pulling Frewsburg to within one run of tying its critical Division 2 battle with Portville, it was Caldwell who was tasked with delivering what just a few innings earlier seemed almost an impossibility: the victory.
All due respect to Ted Williams; hitting is hard, but pinch hitting is hardest. Caldwell, though, somehow made it look easy in that most pressure-packed of moments.
Taking one pitch for timing, the senior lined Portville right-hander Alex Carr's low-and-outside offering to right field, driving in the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift Frewsburg to victory, 9-8, in walk-off fashion.
"He sat there for eight innings," Grann said. "We warmed him up to pitch once because we thought we might need him, but that's just a big hit in a big spot. Especially after sitting around so long.
"He's a senior, though, he's done it for us before and he did it for us again."
And as Caldwell's liner dropped safely to earth and Brink crossed home for the win, the Frewsburg Bears streamed out of the dugout to mob their teammate in celebration.
Portville, meanwhile, which had allowed the Bears to overcome both a five-run deficit in the sixth inning that pushed the game into extra innings and then a three-run shortfall in the eighth, walked off the field in disbelief.
"You know what?" Grann said, a smile creasing his face. "I think today was the first time I actually saw a little fight (in my team). We were kind of just going through the motions, and then we caught a little fire there and that lit into them."
The Bears, who seemingly grew more and more quiet in the dugout as Portville expanded its lead to five runs by the end of five frames, flipped the switch in the sixth.
Portville starter Brett Marcellin had seemed nearly unhittable to that point, surrendering just two hits while fanning four and walking one. But suddenly his control deteriorated. He hit Christian Proctor to open the frame and then, after a deep fly by Bryce Peterson that was misplayed by the right fielder, he hit Tage Johnson to load the bases.
Trevor Spicer followed with a hit through the hole between short and third for the Bears' first run. A wild pitch later cut the deficit to three, a Brett Johnson two-run single to right narrowed the score to just one and then a Michael Mammoser sacrifice fly knotted the game at five runs apiece.
"I think we had more aggressive at-bats, and that was the key (to the offensive surge late in the game)," Grann said. "We didn't go up there looking for pitches anymore, we just reacted and took aggressive swings at the ball."
The game would remain tied until the eighth, when Frewsburg's own control issues (the Bears' three pitchers combined for 11 walks and two hit batsmen) allowed Portville to draw three straight walks and, after a single by Carr, regain the lead in the top of the eighth, 8-5.
But, as Grann noted, the Bears were ready to fight.
Three straight singles - by Brett Johnson, Bryce Raymond and Mammoser - against Portville reliever Carr loaded the bases for Brink, and the young freshman did the rest to set up Caldwell's own heroics.
"What a job by the freshman," Grann said. "He stepped up, drove in two runs, put himself in scoring position and then scored the winning run. I can't say enough about it."
Earning the victory for the Bears was Tage Johnson, who relieved Dane Johnson in the eighth with the bases loaded. It was starting pitcher Raymond, however, with whom Grann was most impressed.
"He's the one who kept us in the game," he said. "He gave up five runs, but not all of those were on him. He's a workhorse for us. We put him out there and he loves to have the ball."
Raymond worked seven innings, scattering five runs on five hits with eight walks.