Northwood’s Deauton Delgado went from just trying to advance a runner to winning the game.
After leadoff hitter Timmy Yelverton drew a walk then advanced two bases on a steal and error, Delgado smashed a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday to walk off with a 5-4 win against Benton.
“We had a game plan when Timmy got on, but when he stole and the ball got away, my at-bat changed,” said Delgado, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “I just got a good pitch and put a good swing on it.
“I knew I hit it well, but our big wall in center field, you never knew if it was going to get out. I knew I was scoring at least the (tying) run.”
Yelverton’s walk at the top of the seventh inning chased Benton starter Jordan Shaffer, who struck out 10 batters in six innings and allowed just five hits. Benton’s Aaron Baker (3-1) takes his first loss on Delgado’s fifth home run of the season.
But Shaffer also walked five batters, and Northwood’s willingness to battle Shaffer elevated the ace’s pitch count.
“Northwood did a great job competing … and we had our opportunities, but the reality is when it came time, they took advantage and outplayed us,” said Benton coach J.D. Stephens. “Shaffer always competes whether he has his A-game or not.
“But I don’t think Northwood chased any pitches out of the zone, and they swung at pitches in the zone.”
Yelverton survived 10 Benton hits but hung on with seven strikeouts of his own to allow just four runs.
Northwood’s Justin Gaskin (2-for-3) picked up the win by recording the final out with two runners on.
“Benton – tip your hat to them because those guys can absolutely hammer the baseball,” Yelverton said. “I found that out pretty quick, and these guys know what they are doing.
“Benton thrived on our mistakes and that’s why they are one of the top teams in the state. But when it came time, we were able to make timely plays.”
Benton’s Branson Woodward, who started playing this week after a meniscus tear in his knee, started the scoring with an RBI-single in the first inning.
Woodward went 2-for-3, including a fourth-inning solo home run to tie the score at 2-2.
Northwood’s first two runs came in the third inning with Yelverton and Delgado scoring on two throwing errors.
Benton’s Jaret Gill handed the Tigers the momentum with a two-run home run in the fifth inning to put the Tigers up 4-2. Shaffer doubled to put courtesy runner Tyler Stephens on base for the second of his two runs.
The Falcons narrowed the gap to 4-3 in the sixth inning with a Gaskin double to score Cole Barnett.
Northwood (16-3, 2-1) has won seven of its last eight games, and coach Darien Dukes said the Benton win helps his team rebound from a one-run loss to North DeSoto.
“This gives us momentum for the rest of (District 1-4A play),” Dukes said. “It really lets us know that we can play with anybody.
“And I hope we don’t see Shaffer again because we were fortunate to push his pitch count up today.”
Benton (14-7), who started 2-0 that included a no-hitter from Aaron Henigan against Minden, has lost four of its last six games.
“Our (lineup) is continuing to grow, but the positive is that we haven’t peaked by any means,” Stephens said. “It’s a grind, but we did barrel up a lot more balls than we have been.
“If we keep doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”