WALPOLE, Mass. -– Friday afternoon’s showdown was full of clutch hitting and timely defensive plays -- as any Walpole-Norwood matchup should be. Walpole took an 8-1 lead after three innings, watched Norwood (5-3) tie the game one inning later, and in the bottom of the ninth Johnny Adams drove in the winning run to seal an 11-10 victory for the Rebels (9-1).
Adams was 0-for-5 going into his last at-bat, but was able to put all that behind him with the game on the line. With a base knock up the middle, he drove in the winning run, doing just what his coach told him to do.
“He’s the man we’d want up every time, I don’t care if he’s 0-for-10," Walpole coach Bill Tompkins said. "[I told him] just take it up the middle, don’t try to do more than you can, just take it up the middle."
Adam’s game-winning single was just one of several big-hits in what was a spirited offensive affair. Walpole scored three runs in the first inning, then added five more in the third inning -— four of which came via a grand slam to left field by rightfielder Matt Bender.
"He just jumped on a fastball and got all of it...the reason why Matt got that hit and the other kid got a home run is that the balls are up," Tompkins said. "Not good location, and that’s what happens when you leave the ball up."
All the momentum was in Walpole’s dugout at that point, but Norwood refused to quit. The Mustangs put seven runs on the board to come back from what originally appeared to be an unanswerable deficit.
“We’re a real good team, we’re gonna’ be there when it’s all said and done," Norwood coach Kevin Igoe said. "Give [Walpole] credit too, when we came back they stole the momentum; we’ve got to step on their neck when we’ve got them. They’re too good a team to let them go."
Nearly all of Norwood’s lineup got involved in the rally: Anthony Perriello legged out an RBI-triple early in the inning, Mark Saulnier ripped a double to drive Perriello in, while Tyler Gover drove in a run on a base hit and Rourke Flynn drove in two of his own on a double to bring the score to 8-6.
Flynn scored on the next play when two Norwood runners came around on a wild play, tying the game at eight.
“That’s a very typical Walpole-Norwood game,” Tompkins said. “A lot of comebacks—give Norwood credit, they were down 8-1 and they didn’t quit. They bounced back for that big seven-spot in the fourth inning.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Walpole catcher Rick Ordway (4-for-4, RBI) smashed an RBI double to left field to give the Rebels a 9-8 lead. Norwood, on cue, came back once again, tying the game on a two-run homer by Saulnier in the seventh.
Walpole managed to tack on two runs to win the game. In the eighth, following a single, Ordway came around to score on a triple by designated hitter Jim Smith.
“Some big hits in that eighth inning, [Ordway] got his fourth hit of the game, right after a double play too. He didn’t give up,” Tompkins said.
In the bottom of the ninth, Walpole’s Mike Rando got on base on what appeared to be a controversial call by the homeplate umpire on a pop-up inbetween first base and right field. Rando reached base, and eventually came around to score the winning run on Adams’ RBI single. Tompkins appreciated the win and effort from his players, but emphasized that they should not get ahead of themselves.
“It’s a nice boost, but it’s still midway through the season," Tompkins said. "We talked about win or lose, this wasn’t gonna be the end of the season, there’s still a lot of baseball to play. We’re 9-1, and we haven’t played an A-game yet. We hung in there, we didn’t give up, just like Norwood didn’t give up, and we came back and go the W. Good win, but it’s just one win.”