Matt Buss had not had a good day at the plate when he came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday.
Knowing his junior center fielder had gone 0-for-3 and had struck out in his previous at-bat, Manchester coach John Musolf had words of encouragement for Buss.
“I said, ‘Matt, you’re my guy. Here’s a chance to redeem yourself. Here’s a chance for you to be the hero this time,’ ” Musolf said.
Buss was Musolf’s guy and was a hero as he lined a single to center on a first pitch fastball with nobody out and the bases loaded that scored courtesy runner Dominick Carone with the tying run and Garret White with the winning run and gave Manchester a dramatic 4-3 win over Central in a Shore Conference Class B South game.
“It was definitely the best situation you could be in,” Buss said. “If you put it in play, things are going to happen.”
“He didn’t wait. He got it done,” Musolf said.
Manchester (3-4, 3-3) appeared down and out after Central (4-4, 4-3) scored two runs with two out in the top of the seventh.
“My team is made of something,” Buss said.
Mitch Stage started the home seventh when he was hit by a pitch. Garret Barry worked a walk.
Central coach John Scran then lifted Josh DellaPietro, who had pitched a solid six innings, and moved left fielder Rich Galati to the mound.
Dan Piskowski, who had come in relief with two out in the top of the seventh, twice failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt before he fought off a 3-2 pitch and blooped an opposite field single to left to load the bases and bring Buss to the plate.
“I was hoping for a fastball,” Buss said.
Buss knew as soon as he made contact he had done enough to win the game.
“It’s unbelievable when you make contact like that and you know it’s going to go somewhere, whether it’s right at a glove or right up the middle like mine was,” Buss said.
Central had scratched out its go-ahead runs in a bizarre way.
Nick Bondulicuh walked with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and then tried to score on an error at first base on Galati’s ground ball, only to be called out at the plate.
Walks to DellaPietro and leadoff batter Tom Clark loaded the bases. Musolf lifted starter Devin Tomei, who had allowed two hits and struck out eight in 62/3 innings, in favor of Piskowski.
Mike Puglisi cued one off his bat that took a weird spin and hop and got away from the first baseman and enabled Galati and DellaPietro to score and give the Golden Eagles the lead.
Piskowski avoided further damage when he got cleanup batter Andrew DiPiazza to hit a smash to Buss in right center.
“This team showed that they believe in us. We believe in them,” Musolf said. “I sensed (when his team came to the dugout after the top of the seventh) that they had not given up and were going to go for it. What they did was more than anybody could look and get rah-rah and get them going.
“They went out and did it. They didn’t want to lose. They earned my respect.”
For Central, the loss dropped it two games in the loss column behind divisional co-leaders Jackson Liberty (4-2, 4-1) and Monsignor Donovan (6-1, 4-1). The Golden Eagles are 1-4 not started by hard-throwing ace junior right-hander Andrew DiPiazza. Manchester is also two games back in the loss column in a competitive and balanced division.
“You never think you’ve rescued a game,” said Scran, when asked if he thought his team had done enough to win after its seventh inning rally. “Baseball is a funny sport. A bounce here, a bounce there. The game is not over until that last strike is called. We’ve had numerous games here against them like this.”