Above: Gateway Christian sophomore Riley Arnold hits a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday as the Warriors defeated district rival Grady/San Jon 11-10 at Noon Optimist Park. (AJ Dickman Photo)
Below: Gateway sophomore pitcher Wyatt Arlett hurls one in the top of the fifth inning during the Warriors 11-10 extra innings, walk-off victory over the visiting Grady/San Jon Coyotes Friday at Noon Optimist Park. (AJ Dickman Photo)
Between timely hitting and even timelier errors, the Gateway Christian Warriors and district rival Grady/San Jon had a drawn-out contest Friday at Noon Optimist Park, but in the bottom of the first extra inning, the Arnolds — Blaine and Riley — came up with the walk-off play to secure a 11-10 victory.
The game was just entering the third hour when senior Blaine Arnold led off the bottom of the eighth with a hard grounder to the Grady shortstop, who couldn’t handle the hard hopper as the ball popped up and over his head as he tried to field it.
Sophomore Riley Arnold stepped up to the plate, watched a wild pitch that allowed the older Arnold to reach second, and then blasted a pitch down the third base line. Blaine Arnold easily crossed home plate to give his club the all-important district win.
The game was tied at 6-all going into the bottom of the fifth inning, where the Warriors scored three runs to take a 9-6 lead. Riley Arnold singled to lead off the inning and sophomore Gage Estes walked with one out before freshman Chase Winkler’s single to center field that brought Riley Arnold home.
Freshman Jacob Ramos walked before sophomore Braedon Fulkerson’s single brought Winkler and Ramos in. With momentum on their side, the Warriors wanted more in the inning, but got overzealous as Fulkerson was picked off trying to steal second.
Sophomore pitcher Wyatt Arlett put a good swing on a pitch, lining it high towards first, but long first baseman Jayden Garrett stretched for the snag and the final out of the inning.
In the top of the frame, Arlett struck out the lead off man looking, then hit the next batter before getting Ivan Valdez to slowly ground out to first. With two easy outs and one man on base, it looked as if Arlett would have a strong inning, but another walk followed by a bad pick-off toss to second put runners at second and third.
Lucas Whitehead then doubled to the gap in left-center, bringing in two runs to make the score 9-8. At that point, Gateway head coach Rick Rapp chose to replace Arlett with Ramos. The freshman immediately gave up a standup double to tie the game at 9 runs apiece.
Ramos walked the next hitter before giving up an RBI single. He walked the next batter to load the bases and Rapp put another freshman, Winkler, on the mound, who got his batter to watch strike three to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Arnolds got on with one out and then freshman catcher Jacob Swann walked to load the bases. But a new pitcher entered the game and K’d Estes for the second out.
Winkler stepped up and singled to bring in the tying run, but Riley Arnold got caught in a pickle between third and second for the last out of the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Winkler got the first hitter to groundout before giving up a big hit to Daniel Edwards, who blasted a pitch out to the fence in center field. But Edwards was also overzealous as he tried to turn a surefire double into a triple.
Gateway shortstop Jaydon Stephens had the wherewithal to hold on to the relay throw and catch Edwards between second and third, where Blaine Arnold finally chased him down for out No. 2.
The next hitter beat the throw to first on a groundball and Whitehead was walked before Ramos got Chance Shaw to groundout to Stephens, who tossed to Blaine Arnold for the force out at third, ending the inning with the tie intact.
In the bottom of the final regulation inning, Shaw hit Ramos, but K’d the next two Warriors and got Stephens to ground out for the last out, sending the game to extras.
Winkler stayed on the bump and gave up a single to the first batter, but when the Coyote tried to take second, Swann shot the ball over the pitcher for the pick off. The next hitter struck out swinging and big third baseman Jockamo Pearson grounded out to second for the last Grady out of the contest.
The Arnolds took care of the rest as the Warriors moved to 3-2 on the season and 2-0 in the seven-team, combined Class A/2A District 4/6 standings.