Chase Fals said he had seen nothing but fastballs all night.
There were two runners on base and the score was tied at 1 when he came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning in Friday’s Class 4A regional playoff between Fals’ Pearl River Rebels and the visiting Grant Cougars.
Fals knew exactly what to expect. And with one swift swing, he changed the score and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
The big senior left-hander drilled a belt-high fastball well over the left-center field fence to give Pearl River a 4-1 victory in the opening game of the best-of-three series. The teams will meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday. If Grant wins, the deciding game will be played shortly thereafter.
Eighth-seeded Pearl River (18-5) trailed 1-0 going in to the bottom of the seventh. Chandler Moore laced a double to left with one out, but a pinch hitter went down on strikes for the second out. Chad Simon, the leadoff hitter, also singled to left which scored Justin Dean who was pinch running for Moore.
Dylan Kavanaugh followed with a walk, and that brought Fals to the plate. There was no doubt about the three-run home run, as it rocketed off his bat and sailed into the woods behind the right field fence.
“I knew we had to get a runner on before we had two outs,” Fals said. “That double by Chandler; from there, I knew we were going to score at least one. And then when I came up, I told my coach that (Grant pitcher Hunter Parker) had been throwing me strikes on the first pitch every time I came up. I said I’m going to swing for it.”
The home run was a huge momentum swing for Pearl River, which had stranded four runners in scoring position through six innings. Coach Steve Bullock said, however, he never lost faith that his team would win.
“When we scored that one run, I felt like we were going to win,” Bullock said. “I felt like extra innings was to our advantage. I don’t really know how deep they are on the mound, but I knew we have depth on the mound, and that played to our favor if we did go extras.”
Ninth-seeded Grant (19-9) scored in the top of the first when Clayton Noakes knocked off a two-out double down the left-field line off Pearl River starter Daniel Charbonnet. Jackson Beiber followed with a looping single to right that scored Noakes and made the score 1-0. The Rebels had a chance to at least tie the score in the bottom of the inning, but stranded two runners in scoring position after an infield hit, a bunt single, and an error by the Cougars.
The Rebels stranded another runner at third in the bottom of the third inning, when Cameron Wright started the frame being hit by a pitch, stealing second, and advancing on a botched pickoff attempt. A potential two-out rally also fell short for Pearl River in the fifth, after Simon had an infield single and Kavanaugh walked.
Charbonnet threw a complete game for Pearl River. He allowed only four hits and struck out seven. Parker threw scoreless ball through 6.2 innings, until Simon tied the game and Fals finished it.
It was a tough loss for the Cougars.
“I challenged them to see what kind of fortitude we have left tomorrow,” Grant coach Cody Laprarie said. “We have a senior-heavy group. Do we rebound with two wins, or are we just happy we got to this point? I think we’re going to bounce back.”