Airline coach Toby Todd bet Andrew Lowe’s second straight change-up would have enough fade to fool Byrd’s Luke Johnson.
It did not.
Johnson delivered a game-tying, two-run home run in the sixth inning, and Phillip Wuellner’s RBI single three batters later completed Byrd’s comeback to give the Yellow Jackets a 4-3 victory against the host Vikings on Friday night.
“It’s been the story of our year,” Byrd coach Al Cantwell said. “We’re hit or miss. When things are going well, things are good. When they’re not, we implode a little bit.”
Johnson’s blast and Wuellner’s bloop helped Byrd (10-11, 4-1) stay a game behind Captain Shreve in the district race.
It also erased a game’s worth of poor base-running decisions that repeatedly burned the Jackets.
Six times Byrd’s leadoff batter reached base. The Yellow Jackets only pushed him across twice — and one of those came courtesy of a two-out error by Airline (12-9, 2-3).
Johnson and Wuellner solved those problems. Their sixth-inning hits marked the second and third times the Jackets recorded hits with runners on base, as Lowe continuously worked his way out of trouble.
“I was sitting on it,” Johnson said. “He had done it to me my ABs (at-bats) before. I put a good swing on it. With us, it’s like a chain reaction. Once one guy gets it done, it just keeps happening and happening.”
After Byrd’s three-run rally in the sixth, Cantwell handed the game to sophomore right-hander Andrew Robinson, whose two scoreless innings netted him his second save of the year and Matt James (2-3) his second win of the season.
Robinson’s stellar relief work left Airline lamenting its missed chances.
“We’ve got to find a way to score runs early,” Todd said. “We allowed them to hang around, and then we’re chasing a run, and we can’t get it.”