SOUTH WEBSTER – As Charles Swindoll so eloquently stated, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
When presented with not one, but two different situations, once in the sixth and again in the seventh, down a run needing to score two runs to retake the lead, South Webster did just that. In doing so, the Jeeps picked up a much needed 5-4 win thanks to Riley Cook’s walk off single over a 10-3 Ironton St. Joe team that they will likely see in their push for a district tournament appearance this May.
“Our guys have fought all year long,” said Jeeps head coach Ryan McClintic following the walk off win. “There’s been games this season where we’ve dug ourselves in a hole early and had our backs against a wall. This team’s used to fighting back because we’ve done so a lot in the past. They’re starting to learn, like they did against Valley a few weeks ago, that they can fight back and actually take back that fight.”
McClintic’s right. South Webster’s win Tuesday is their second major win in eight days, the first of which was a 9-8 SOC II win over a Division III district champion in 2018, the Valley Indians thanks to a seven run fifth inning.
Freshman Riley Cook doesn’t care who the opponent is, though. Nor does he care what the moment is. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the game winning run on second base, Cook not only stepped up to the moment, he embraced it to drive in Caleb Cunningham from second base and end Tuesday’s game.
“The thing we love about Riley is that he loves those moments,” McClintic said. “He wants these moments, getting his teammates pumped up. I can say this about Riley Cook: playing varsity baseball, playing the schedule and the teams that we do, he’s not scared at all. I told him after the game that he lives for these moments. He was feeling it, locked in, he said the ball looked like a beach ball to him.”
Ironton St. Joe may have hung a four in the visitor’s portion of South Webster’s scoreboard, but that didn’t reflect the ace like pitching performance from sophomore Billy Jones. Through just six innings, Jones had allowed just one hit while striking out seven Flyers batters. ISJ may have picked up two runs in the seventh, but his performance on the mound was exactly what the Jeeps needed to give their bats a chance to win.
“It was a heck-of-a performance. He’s (Billy Jones) been our workhorse for us in his second year for us a sophomore. Last year he was our number one guy, same thing this year. We expect a lot out of him. He deserves everything he gets in this win because he’s baseball 24/7, 365. He works hard in the summer, always wanting to take on more reps. He showed he was made for this moment, and that’s big for a sophomore.”
Cook’s walk off RBI single was his lone hit of Tuesday’s win. Aidan Andrews game tying RBI in the seventh, Jones’ go ahead RBI in the sixth, runs scored by Caleb Cunningham and Gabe Ruth and the winning run scored by Jacob Ruth all were incredibly pivotal moments in their own respect for the Jeeps to secure the come from behind win.
Tuesday’s win is likely one that will not only pay off in the immediate, but also down the line come tournament seeding time when the Flyers are to be seeded and compared to Ironton St. Joe as potential sectional opponents.
“It’s a Division IV which is always big for us,” McClintic said. “We play a D2 and D3 schedule in league, so anytime we can get a D4 win that’ll always help in seeding. To be saying this was just another game, I’d be lying to you. Ironton St. Joe is the only team in our sectional that we play. Our guys knew how important this game would be for us come seeding time. I didn’t try to downplay that to them, and they really took hold of that and it showed today. Really proud of the way they battled to get this win.”