|Cast of characters in Tornado drama |
A pair of unlikely heroes came through in the clutch to put Union City within one more victory of the District 14A Tournament championship game.
Union City’s Chase Bowling takes a pitch during the Tornadoes’ 2-1 triumph Saturday.
Bottom-of-the-order hitters Chase Bowling and B.J. Marshall first chased home the tying, then the winning run in the last of the seventh to lift the Tornadoes to a thrilling 2-1 victory over Halls Saturday in one of two winner’s bracket semifinals at Elam Stadium.
The dramatic triumph puts UC (14-14-1) into Tuesday’s 5 p.m. winner’s bracket final, where it will meet Trenton — a 5-4 upset winner over Humboldt — with the winner to earn a spot in the 14A finals as well as a berth in next week’s Region 7A Tournament. Tuesday’s loser will remain alive but must win the championship of the loser’s bracket on Wednesday to play in Thursday’s title round.
Trailing 1-0 with two outs in their last at-bat and having stranded runners in scoring position three times, the Tornadoes finally came through when it mattered the most.
Bowling, just a freshman and playing only because three regulars were out of the UC lineup due to illness or injury, hit a hot shot at Halls third Todd Aiken that glanced off the infielder and into short leftfield that brought home Craig Lowrance from third and tied the score.
Marshall, the No. 9 hitter in the Twister order, then stroked a 1-0 pitch up the middle for just the third hit of the game for the locals, but one that plated pinch-runner Tyler Steward-Croom with the deciding tally.
“How about that for a young freshman coming up and hitting the ball hard and coming through?” an obviously-excited Union City skipper David Barker rehetorically asked afterward while alluding to Bowling’s at-bat. “And then B.J., even though he hasn’t had a lot of those kinds of situations and at-bats at the bottom of the order, stepped in there and came through, too.
“It was a great win.”
Prior to the exciting ending, the Twisters’ Craig Lowrance and Cody Dew were locked in an old-fashioned pitching duel.
Lowrance (2-0), who is continuing to build arm strength after offseason shoulder surgery, was especially dominant early — retiring the first 12 Tiger batters. In all, he retired the side in order five times and ended up striking out eight, walking just one while finishing with a two-hitter. Lowrance was economical, too, throwing just 81 pitches.
Dew (6-4), meanwhile, took a two-hitter into the final inning and continually made big pitches when it counted in denying Union City runs in the third, fifth and sixth when it had advanced into scoring position. Both Tornado runs were unearned as a result of Aiken’s error on Bowling’s ball that allowed the seventh inning to continue.
“Craig has been our mainstay for three years now, and he came up big when we needed a good pitching performance,” Barker said of Lowrance. “He’s really worked hard after his shoulder problems in the offseason to get back to where he is now and he also did a great job of being efficient with his pitch count.”
Lowrance was aided by a pair of fine defensive plays behind him as Bowling made a sprawling catch of a sinking liner in right in the first inning and catcher Taylor Bruff gunned out a would-be base thief in the fifth.
Halls did touch Lowrance for its only run in the fifth, turning a Lowrance’s only walk, a subsequent fielder’s choice and Aiken’s two-out single into a 1-0 lead.
Union City’s only hits prior to Marshall’s game-winner were a ringing two-out triple by Bruff in the third and a single by Lowrance in the second.
Barker said he was undecided whom would toe the rubber Tuesday for his team’s game with Trenton, indicating that both Lowrance and Colton Speed would be considered. Speed got the victory in UC’s 8-4 opening round victory over Bradford last Thursday.
Trenton shut out the Tornadoes 3-0 in the only regular season meeting of the two teams.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.