Lafayette Christian was in need of some late-inning heroics Saturday against North Vermilion.
The Knights trailed the Patriots by five runs heading into the bottom of the seventh.
But giving up wasn’t in the cards for the Knights, who started the final inning off strong with two hits and two walks.
The Patriots’ pitching began faltering and the Knights capitalized to rally back and pull off a 7-6 victory.
The Knights took advantage of the Patriots’ wildness on the mound. They had three batters reach base after being hit by pitches, and the win was sealed after senior Miles Justin laid down a squeeze bunt to bring home the winning run.
“There’s one thing about our guys, and it’s that they never quit, regardless of the score,” Knights coach Greg Fontenot said. “We had some bad at-bats early on in the game, couldn’t get a two-out hit, but we found a way in the seventh inning to string some hits together. We were fortunate enough, they (North Vermilion) walked a few guys. We found a way to win the baseball game, and that’s all that matters against a good team.”
The Knights’ magic inning began with a leadoff single from Kade Welch, and the floodgates opened from there, as both Patriots’ relief pitchers struggled mightily with control.
“We had a guy leadoff the inning (Kade Welsh), who was kind of struggling a little bit,” Fontenot said. “He did a good job starting the inning off for us with a hit, and I think we had a couple more after that, so it’s just a matter of our kids competing until the end.”
Justin started the game on the mound for the Knights and didn’t have his best stuff, but he managed to play hero with his bat by delivering the walk-off RBI bunt.
“It was a good battle,” Justin said. “It was a struggle, I didn’t have my best stuff today, but we fought through in the seventh and just pulled through. It was a great experience, and I’m glad I had my teammates to do it with. Right before that coach Fontenot came up to me and said you’ve got to execute, so I did my job and executed. I believe in my team, I knew we could come back.”
The plan proved to be successful, as Justin’s clutch bunt capped off an inning in which the Patriots failed to record an out against the Knights.
“I told him (Justin) when he came off the mound to be ready, the game’s not over with,” Fontenot said. “Kudos to him for coming out and laying that bunt down. He could’ve not wanted to because that’s something not a lot of people like to do in that situation, but he stayed locked in in the dugout and found a way to win the game.”
The Knights saw freshman Grant Porche relieve Justin and pitch the seventh inning, shutting the Patriots down to allow for the comeback opportunity.
“He (Porche) has done that a lot for us all year,” Fontenot said. “He’s kind of been our guy to come out the pen in relief. He pitched a lot for us as an eighth grader last year, but he throws a lot of strikes, he fills up the zone, he’s got a pretty good breaker when he throws it aggressively. That actually looking back it now was a really big inning for us.”
The Knights are now 20-2 on the season after taking down the Patriots and have shown they can compete with the best in the area as they aim to be in contention come May.
“Jeremy (Trahan) is a hell of a coach,” Fontenot said. “He gets them (North Vermilion) going all the time. They lost a lot of good seniors last year, and he found a way to get a bunch together and have a really good baseball team. I love competing against Jeremy, he always comes ready to play. It’s a big win for us, a comeback win like that against a really good team.”
“I think we showed today that we can compete no matter what the score is against a quality team. We just try and go 1-0 every game, we really don’t look forward to anybody else. We try to worry about what’s in front of us and then worry about everybody else after that. We’ve just got to continue to work and get better, and hopefully we’re there at the end of the year.”