Leading 6-1 in the fifth inning, the Havelock baseball team seemed to have everything going its way — until they couldn’t get an out.
Enter relief pitcher Chris Toler, who silenced Washington for 2 2/3 innings and was backed with three late runs as the Rams rallied to beat the Pam Pack 9-8 in a Coastal 3A Conference contest Tuesday night at Havelock High.
“He’s good in relief, and he’s had some good starts,” Havelock coach Charlie Smith said of Toler. “He throws pretty hard, and when he can get comfortable after two or three batters, he usually has a pretty good breaking ball.”
Washington scored six runs — three coming on an error — in the fifth to lead 7-6 and had a runner on board when Toler left his catcher’s spot for the mound. He got a popout, and then watched as catcher Travis Sabdo threw out a runner trying to steal second, ending the inning.
Havelock starter Aron Rossi pitched four effective innings but couldn’t get out of the fifth.
“I wanted Aron to get us off to a good start, and he did, but he just ran out of gas,” Smith said. “We complicated things by going brain dead on defense. On a ball that was hit 10 feet, we let three runs score.”
The Rams committed two more errors in the sixth, giving the Pam Pack another run, but capitalized on three Washington errors to score two runs in the bottom half, tying the game at 8-8.
In the top of the seventh, Toler struck out two, setting the stage for a dramatic bottom half of the inning for the Rams.
Pinch-hitter David Escobar walked, and Toler sacrificed him to second. Pharoh Cooper was intentionally walked, and then Ryan Lewis walked, loading the bases. With three balls and a strike on him, Cam Carpenter then lined a single to right field, lifting the Rams to the victory.
“It was nice having basically a substitute, a courtesy runner, in Escobar get on to lead off the inning,” Smith said. “If he doesn’t get on, we’re probably still playing. ... I gave Cameron the green light on 3-and-1 and he took advantage of it.”
The Rams had 11 hits in the contest, and coming off a 14-1 victory Friday against White Oak, have scored 23 runs in the last two games.
Rossi led Havelock at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Carpenter was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Will Blythe was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Lewis was also 2-for-4, while Toler had an RBI double in three at-bats. Sabdo and Cooper had Havelock’s other hits.
“We had some really good at-bats, some excellent at-bats, but there were some awful at-bats, too, in some key situations,” Smith said. “But we’ve been working on hitting the ball where it’s pitched, and we’ve been doing a much better job of that.”
With the victory, the Rams improve to 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
“If we have to win ugly, that’s fine this time of year, but we’ve got to cut out some of the mistakes,” said Smith, whose team had five errors. “I’m having a good time with this crowd. They play hard, they practice hard, and hopefully it keeps getting better. We’re normally a good defensive team, and we could potentially be one of the better offensive teams we’ve had in several years.”
Havelock is next scheduled to play at Pamlico today and then at South Central on Friday.