Laurel Auto Group received some punch at the plate and aggressive base running from an unlikely source, and then got a clutch walk-off hit from a familiar face in a comeback 7-6 win over Ophthalmic Associates.
Relief pitcher Nick Kolat, batting in the No. 9 hole, stroked a game-tying single to right in a rare plate appearance on Wednesday night at Point Stadium.
“That was my first at-bat since May,” said Kolat, who eventually scored the game-winner in the AAABA League contest. “Guys were just stealing while I’m batting. I said, ‘There goes a fastball and I can’t swing at that one.’ I waited for another and another. I fouled off the one. I relaxed. I saw an outside fastball and I took it the other way.”
No. 2 hitter Joe Fearer smacked a full-count pitch into left field, ending a contest which was delayed by more than an hour due to rain and lasted past 9 p.m.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” said Fearer, one of the league batting leaders. “We had the winning run on third, so there was no pressure on me. There was no chance of us losing the game. I tried to stay relaxed and find a good pitch to hit. He threw a fastball away and I hit it away.”
Third-place Laurel Auto (12-10) held leads of 1-0 and 3-0 through four innings.
Derrick Zavatsky doubled and scored on starting pitcher Mike Nowicki’s chopping infield single to third base in the second inning.
Ryan Matsko and Gordon Barr each singled in the fourth and moved up on Nowicki’s sacrifice bunt. Anthony Piccolini singled home a run, and Barr scored on a ground out.
Fifth-place Ophthalmic Associates (7-15) countered with a two-run fifth after singles by Cory Furry and Josh Bracken were followed by run-scoring hits by Dylan Corl and Alex Beiler.
“We’re better than our record indicates,” Ophthalmic manager Jason Kaminsky said. “I think for a first-year team with a lot of young guys, they’re doing a good job. We’re making a lot of adjustments and doing the things you have to do to win baseball games. We just haven’t gotten over the hump yet.”
Laurel’s Nowicki singled in another run to make it 4-2 in the fifth.
Overall, Laurel Auto had three hits, a sacrifice bunt, one run and three RBI out of the No. 9 spot in the order.
“Those are coming from guys that are pitchers only at the college level,” Laurel Auto manager Mark Thomchick said of Nowicki and Kolat. “They’re baseball players. Even though they’re in the nine hole, they can hit.”
Ophthamic added three runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh to lead 6-4 entering Laurel’s final at-bat.
Michael Flyte tripled to deep center and scored in the sixth, and pinch-hitter Greg Martin singled in a run in the seventh.
But Laurel Auto came back with a three-run seventh.
Zavatsky was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He moved up on a wild pitch and stole third. He scored on a balk.
Barr drew a one-out walk and advanced on the balk and a stolen base. Kolat delivered his single.
“Kolat, our pitcher – I don’t think he hits ever – got a hit to drive in the tying run,” Fearer said. “He ran the bases really well to get to third base.”
Kolat moved to second on a wild pitch and continued running to third.
“I saw it about halfway and when I got three-quarters of the way to second, I peeked in,” Kolat said. “I saw that the catcher didn’t know where it was. My coach (Thomchick) was at W&J and that’s where I go. We practice that all the time, round two hard. You never know. I took a peek and I wasn’t stopping.”
Fearer lined the ball to left to end it.
“It’s a game of inches,” Kaminsky said. “They put the bat on the ball and hits fell in for them. It’s a tough one to lose but these guys are a resilient bunch of kids and they play well together as a team.”