Pearce’s grand slam, Deaton’s game-winning double lifts Oak Hill to thrilling triumph over Eastbrook in CIC opener
By Sean Douglas
If there is one word to describe the Oak Hill Golden Eagles in the 2021 baseball season, it’s resilience.
They have committed far too many errors for Head Coach Shane Edwards’ liking, and a lack of energy early in some of their contests have led to some large early deficits.
However, no matter the deficit they may face, the Golden Eagles battle consistently
battle from the first pitch to the final swing, and in their CIC opener against Eastbrook, their resilience was on full display.
Trailing by scores of 8-0 and 9-3 early in the contest, Oak Hill came roaring back in the bottom of the seventh frame as a bases loaded walk, a grand slam by junior Evan Pearce, and a walkoff double by Keegan Deaton lifted the Golden Eagles to a thrilling 10-9 triumph over the Panthers.
“That’s our third walkoff in four games,” Edwards said. “We are grinding, and we are fighting. If we can fix [our errors] and come out less flat, we could be really special.”
With the Golden Eagles trailing 9-4, Tyler Rennaker, who pitched brilliantly in relief after Eastbrook grabbed its early advantage, began the rally with a single to right field. Kian Hite followed with a walk, and Drew Wagner reached on a single, loading the bases with one out. Senior Mark Sevier drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk, setting the table for the ever-dangerous Pearce.
Throughout his high-school career, regardless of the sport he is playing, Pearce has been at his best when the game is on the line, and he proved that once again against Eastbrook.
After a questionable second strike, Edwards called timeout to talk with Pearce and give him a few pointers.
And for the junior, that’s all he needed.
“He is always telling me to be where my feet are, stay in the moment, and focus on the next pitch,” Pearce said. “[On that second strike,] I thought it was outside, and he said, ‘Did that pitch get you out?’ And I was like, ‘No, no it didn’t.’ Then he said, ‘Well, then be where your feet are, focus, and just get us a base hit.’ I just saw the pitch and I swung.”
With a mammoth swing of the bat, Pearce launched a moonshot to deep left field, clearing the fence with ease and sending the Oak Hill dugout into a frenzy. The grand slam tied the contest at 9-9, and
more importantly, put the Golden Eagles in control.
“I want to be the one that helps my team the biggest way I can,” Pearce said. “A big thing I’ve learned here since I’ve been at Oak Hill…is doing whatever I can do to help the team. That’s what I try to do.”
“I’m glad he wears the blue and gold,” Edwards added. “It’s a nice weapon for us to have on our side of the diamond.”
Three batters later, after Aidan Hardcastle drew a four-pitch walk, Deaton crushed the game-winning double to deep right-center field, capping off the improbable comeback and securing the Golden Eagles’ first conference win of the season.
Eastbrook certainly did not make it easy for Oak Hill, however, jumping out to an eight-run lead in the first three innings due mostly to the red-hot bat of Luke Shearer. The Panthers’ catcher hit back-to-back three run shots in the first two frames, knocking Deaton from the game in the process and had Eastbrook in control in the contest’s early stages.
“Luke has been really good for us, and he’s calling a heck of a game behind the plate,” Brown said. “He’s hustling down the line. He’s popping up on the pop flies trying to see whatever he can get. He’s swinging really well, he’s calling a good game behind the plate, and he’s taking command. It’s nice to have him out here. He’s a big part of what we are doing.”
However, after Shearer’s second shot, Rennaker, a usual starter who came into the game in relief, found his groove. He gave up just two runs after Eastbrook’s four-run second frame, striking out nine batters and scattering six hits to earn the win.
“I thought he threw extremely well,” Edwards said of Rennaker. “He was behind early, but then all of the sudden, he settled in.”
As the game progressed, Oak Hill gained confidence, while Eastbrook
became complacent, lost its aggressive edge? mentality that it had earlier in the game.
Eastbrook Head Coach Ryne Brown
stated claimed the resulting complacency was the most definitive reason that was the biggest reason for the Panthers’ eventual loss.
“We played a really good game, but they are a really good team,” Brown said. “The difference was we let off the gas. Defensively, we held our own, we didn’t make any major mistakes, but they hit the ball. It was only a matter of time. They are always going to hit the ball. Coach Edwards always has these guys ready to hit.
“At the plate, we let off the gas,” Brown said. “We started watching strikes go by where we were aggressive early in the game. We were trying to guess at pitches. We got content, and that’s what happens when you get content against a really good team.”
Along with Pearce’s grand slam, Hardcastle finished 2-for-3, including a solo shot in the sixth inning, while Rennaker also finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. Deaton, along with his game-winning double, also collected an RBI groundout in the third, while Sam Stefanatos finished 1-for-4 with an RBI double.
For Eastbrook, Shearer led all players with two home runs and six RBI, while Jett Engle finished 1-for-3 with a solo home run.
While he hopes that his team will eventually cut down on the mistakes, Edwards is proud of the heart and determination that his team has shown all season long.
“How can a coach be upset at what we are doing right now?” Edwards said. “Our kids are grinding through and getting wins when we probably didn’t deserve them. We are just finding ways to get wins. I’m happy, but I know we can be better.”
And for Eastbrook, Brown and the Panthers are just focusing on their next opponent.
“We’ve got a hard practice tomorrow, and then we’ve got a doubleheader Saturday,” Brown said. “There isn’t a whole lot of time. We are going to go make some tweaks and see if we can work on a few things and be ready to go Saturday.”