Matta hero in 16-14 rollercoaster win for Wood Ducks
The season got off to a rough start on the road for the Down East Wood Ducks as they went 3-4 to open up the 140-game season, but home cooking did the DEWDs some good as they defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans 16-14.
Thursday’s home opener for the Woodies (4-4) featured a seesaw game with the Pelicans (1-7) in front of 2,254 fans that ended with catcher Shaq "Shorty" Matta closing things out with a 4-out save.
The festivities featured the opening of the Mother Earth Pavilion.
The Pelicans came out hot and chased the starter Edgar Arredondo in two thirds of an inning. Myrtle Beach ended the first inning with 5 runs, but for the first time all season the Wood Ducks didn’t flinch when their starter was chased in less than 5 innings. The Wood Ducks were 0-3 in that situation.
“I like the makeup of our club,” first-year manager Spike Owen said. “They’re fighters, they’re not going to give in.”
The Wood Ducks stayed consistent and focused on trying to get the win. In true Wood Ducks fashion, they never quit.
Both teams went back and forth with big hits, costly errors and plenty of pitching changes. Something Owen said the Wood Ducks couldn’t afford due to the already extensive work the bullpen has endured.
But the last pitcher was the most unlikely, and ultimately became the hero of the game.
Matta, the 5-foot-8 catcher, came to the mound to pitch for the first time since he was 15, he said, in one of the worst situations possible. Bases loaded, two outs in the top of the eighth inning with the Wood Ducks holding a 14-13 lead. Matta struckout the first batter he saw to get the Wood Ducks out the jam.
“I told Shaq on the mound when he came in, you know what to do right? He said, “Yeah, throw strikes.” And I said no, throw below hitting speed,” Owen said. “These guys are used to seeing 90-100, and I know we have BP (batting practice), but not from that distance. So no, don’t try to muscle up and throw hard.”
Matta only allowed one run to get the save.
“It was fun,” Matta said. “I know I had never pitched, so I put in my mind, like I can handle the pressure on me so all I gotta do is throw strikes. So I just went and enjoyed it.”