The first weekend of the 2013 baseball season marked a new era for the Byrd baseball team.
With so many key cogs from the last three seasons gone, it was open season for everyone on coach Al Cantwell’s roster. Sunday marked senior Colton Conrad’s and junior Jared Chance’s opportunity to make their pitch.
Conrad tossed 2 1-3 innings of scoreless relief, working out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve a tie, and Chance delivered the pinch-hit, game-winning RBI single in the fifth inning, as Byrd defeated Alexandria 6-5 in the final game of the Medical Pharmacies Invitational sponsored by Dr. Billy Bundrick.
“A lot of our seniors are getting their first crack at it,” Cantwell said. “The difference between our group last year, which I thought was very talented, they were so serious and wanted to be so perfect; these guys are having fun getting an opportunity. That’s really exciting. The situation’s not too big for them.”
The situation Conrad encountered — bases loaded, two outs in a tie game — could have been overwhelming. Instead, Conrad calmed the Byrd dugout by getting pinch-hitter Aaron Armstrong to fly out to center fielder Brennan Maloney and preserve the tie.
“I just wanted to throw strikes and get an out,” Conrad said. “Just compete really.”
Conrad’s escape act set the stage for Chance, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the pivotal fifth inning.
Chance jumped on a 2-0 offering from ASH (0-4) reliever Chris Dodson, sending it back up the middle to score Eric Miller with the tie-breaking run.
“Coach always tells us to hit it up the middle and relax,” Chance said. “I guess I just pulled through right there. It feels special.”
The back-and-forth affair featured Alexandria coach John Michael Collins being ejected in the second inning for arguing a play at first base. The tension spilled to his assistants and Cantwell, who were engaged in a shouting match in the bottom of the fourth after a pitch sailed behind Byrd’s Sam Chadwick.
Chadwick eventually laid down a run-scoring squeeze bunt, part of a three-run Byrd fourth that gave the Jackets (2-2) a short-lived 5-4 lead.
Despite not getting the shutdown inning, Byrd still had enough wherewithal to string together the winning rally.
“That kind of makes us pretty mad, but we keep it to ourselves and get done what we need to get done,” Chance said.