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Barnard leads Mustangs past former team 8-7

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: July 9, 2017 4:00 AM
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RAVENNA -- Gavin Barnard was supposed to play for the Garfield Coyotes this year.

When the Garfield Mustangs didn't have enough players, Barnard volunteered to join the less experienced Mustangs, even if doing so decreased his chances of advancing in this weekend's Hot Stove Class I Ravenna Regional. Unlike his former Coyotes teammates, his Mustangs compadres hadn't played coach pitch before -- some hadn't played ball at all.

"I don't want to say it's a Cinderella story, but Gavin was actually on that team in the beginning of the year. We didn't have enough kids to make a team," Mustangs coach Scott Eberly said, beginning to choke up. "He knew we were a first-year team, and he volunteered to come over, just so the other kids would be able to play."

Playing against his former team, Barnard asked for the chance to take the mound, and Eberly gave him the final frame, with Barnard pitching a scoreless top of the sixth, then sending a game-winning, walk-off double up the middle for an 8-7 upset victory Saturday. As a result, the Mustangs (3-9) will play Ohio Rack (9-4) in a regional quarterfinal Sunday afternoon.

"It was incredible," Eberly said.

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As good as Barnard's sixth inning was, it didn't start all that well, as the Coyotes' Brayden Hobbs rudely greeted him with a drive through Barnard's legs, with the third baseman advancing to third on a pair of errors. With Hobbs, the go-ahead run, on third and no outs, Barnard caught a pop-up and struck out the next two Coyotes hitters. The first came on a full-count pitch that caught the outer black. The second came on another two-strike pitch on the outer black.

Barnard then plated Colton Workman, who led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, his third time on base Saturday, with a shot up the middle that found the gap to bring Workman all the way around from first.

Though the Coyotes (11-2) were more experienced than the Mustangs, the home team never looked intimidated, even after falling behind 4-0, when the Coyotes started the affair with four straight singles to score four first-inning runs. The Mustangs answered with two in the first and three in the second, with all three second-inning runs coming with two outs.

"Just real hard work," Eberly said. "They've been practicing a lot, mostly on their batting, which in the end is what it took to win it. Just hard work and they really listen and they've been doing a really good job."

Following a pair of strikeouts, the Mustangs' Kade Fedor kept the second inning alive with a rip to the hot corner, and Workman looped a hit in front of the diving second baseman to draw within 5-3. Elijah Decker followed with a tapper in front of home plate to put the Mustangs within one, and Barnard capped the comeback with an RBI bloop single.

The Coyotes plunged back in front with a tally in the third, on a Devin Bates RBI groundout, and a tally in the fourth, on a Logan Warner grounder, but the Mustangs rallied with two in the bottom of the fifth.

In addition to Barnard's gusty sixth, the Mustangs got a dominant fifth from Decker, the son of Woodridge football coach Jeff Decker and the youngest player on the team. Sporting a wide grin the entire afternoon, Decker needed just 11 pitches to get through the fifth, ducking a leadoff single by striking out the next three hitters.

"He's all-around just a great player," Eberly said. "He's always upbeat, always positive, just a great kid."

The Coyotes' Gabe Cartwright had a pair of hits, including a sharp grounder through the hole between third and shortstop. Jared Luoma also notched a pair of base knocks, with one grounder finding the Bermuda Triangle between the third baseman, pitcher and catcher, and a bloop touching down on the outfield grass.

Parker Gill, Warner, Henry Veccia and Cartwright hit four straight singles to start the game, with Jared Cardinal capping the rally with a final base hit to give the Coyotes a 4-0 lead in the first.


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