In typical York Revolution-Lancaster Barnstormers War of the Roses match-ups, wins rarely come easily.
Mix in the fact that York was only three games behind Lancaster in the Atlantic League Freedom Division second-half standings entering Monday night's contest and it only makes things more intense.
So, when the Barnstormers (19-11) gained a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth on Monday, there was just a feeling that there was still one more twist left in the game. Fortunately for the Revs (17-13) — and the majority of the 5,037 fans at Santander Stadium — that final turn went in their favor.
After loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, Yeicok Calderon tied the game at 7-7 with a single, scoring Bryan Pounds. Then, after the next two York hitters were retired, Mikey Reynolds came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the season for the Revs, scoring pinch-runner James Simmons from third to give York the 8-7 walk-off victory.
"I was just looking to get a pitch I could hit," Reynolds said. "He didn't give it to me on the first one, then the second one, it was right there."
Reynolds, who started the game on the bench, came in for the start of the seventh as a substitute for center fielder Jose Constanza. Reynolds' late-game entrance and big-time heroics just added another crazy wrinkle to an already wild game.
"I just always have to get my legs ready, in case I have to pinch run or do anything," he said about coming off the bench. "These guys that are injured, playing with minor injuries, you always have to be ready to be out there and that's what happened today."
Wild game: In total, there were five lead changes, 12 combined pitchers used, 28 hits and too many manager visits to even count. Neither starter made it out of the fifth inning, and from that point forward, it was a match-up battle between relievers and batters.
It was a typical mental grind between the local rivals who were meeting for the 23rd time this season and still have five more games against each other. Revs' manager Mark Mason says you should always expect the unexpected in the rivalry, and Monday night's match-up was a perfect example of that.
"The thing you expect to happen the least, happens the most," he said. "That's probably the best way to describe it. You're in certain situations and you don't expect things to happen and they do and then when you're in situations where you don't think anything good will happen, they do."
Momentum shifts: One night after getting three-hit in a 6-0 loss, York quickly erased any notion that its hot bats went cold. Eric Patterson launched an RBI double off the Arch Nemesis in the first inning to grab a 1-0 lead and then the Revs increased that advantage with two more runs in the second.
But, five unanswered runs over the next three innings by the Barnstormers quickly put York behind and struggling to come up with big hits. In the span of three innings, the game's momentum shifted and the Revs went from in control to scrambling for answers.
However, a bases-loaded walk by Bryan Pounds in the bottom of the fifth brought York back to within one at 5-4 and then two runs in the bottom of the sixth helped it regain the lead, 6-5.
But, in probably the most unexpected manner, shutdown reliever Ron Schreurs gave up a two-strike, two-out solo home run to Kent Matthes in the top of the seventh to again bring the game level. Then, in the top of the eighth, Stephen Penney had an uncharacteristically out-of-control inning, allowing one run on three hits and putting the Revs behind again, with only six outs to get it back.
But, just as quickly as the York bats went to sleep for innings at a time, they woke up in the ninth. The Revs strung together four hits in the frame, capped off by Reynolds' walk-off blow that just eluded second baseman Luke Hughes' diving effort.
Starters struggle: York starter Matt Neil only lasted 4 2/3 innings, exiting after giving up five runs (two earned), on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Ty'Relle Harris retired all four hitters he faced, striking out three of them. Schreurs struck out two in the inning he worked and was one strike away from striking out the side in order before Matthes took him deep. After Penney gave the lead back to Lancaster in the eighth, Edward Paredes pitched a perfect top of the ninth and got rewarded with his second win of the season.
For the Barnstormers, starter Chad Beck also only lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs, all earned, on nine hits, a walk and a strikeout. Closer Marcus Walden took the loss, only getting two outs and giving up two runs on four hits, a walk and a strikeout.
Offensively for the Revs, every batter recorded at least one hit, except for Telvin Nash. Calderon had a game-high four hits, while Wilson Valdez and Patterson each chipped in with three.
Closing within two games: The victory also moves York back to within two games of the Barnstormers for the Freedom Division lead with two more games remaining in the four-game series. The Revs now only trail the War of the Roses for the Community Cup, 12-11.
The come-from-behind win also pushes York's record on the eight-game homestand to 5-1, and was maybe the biggest win of the year in terms of the team's playoff outlook.
"We understand, too, that, if we get too far behind, it makes it harder because we don't play too many games in our division after this series," Mason said. "We only play (Lancaster a few) more times and then we're done. ... I think right now, you just try to win as many games as you can to stay in the hunt."
The two sides will meet for the third game of the series on Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Santander Stadium.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.