Tarboro’s River Bandits (26-13) got their two strongest pitching performances of the year when they needed them the most.
On Sunday, facing Edenton in an elimination game in the Premier Collegiate League’s eastern division playoffs, the Bandits got a gutty, 8 1/3-inning performance from Will Smith (UT-Martin) in a game won 3-2 on a walk-off wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th.
Smith is a position player, normally playing third base.
Then, on Monday night, Pfeiffer commit Jack Hamilton pitched a complete game as the River Bandits won their second-straight elimination game, 6-1, at Greenbrier.
The win put the Bandits into Tuesday night’s eastern division championship game at Municipal Stadium, since the two teams were even and the Bandits were highest-seeded.
Hamilton threw just 93 pitches en route to the win. He walked three, hit one and struck out one while scattering four hits. He forced nine ground outs and 14 fly outs.
On Monday, the River Bandits took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when leadoff batter Anthony Sherwin (Bucknell) walked and advanced to second on a Nick Hussey (NJ Tech) bunt and both advanced a base on an error by the catcher. Designated hitter Jackson Cherry (Mercer) then walked on a full count to load the bases.
Levi Aguila (Felician) then scored Sherwin on a sacrifice fly to left to make the score 1-0, but strikeouts by Mike Dolberry (Longwood) and Dane Hoggard (Seton Hall) stranded them on base.
The Bandits added to their lead in the fourth when Aguila led off with a walk. After Dolberry struck out for the second time, Hoggard doubled to left to drive in Aguila.
With Hoggard on second, Cam Hassert (Villanova) walked on four straight pitches and Pete Cosentino (Montclair State) singled to left to score Hoggard and make the score 3-0.
Greenbrier then got out of the inning with the Bandits stranding runners at second and third.
The Knights got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth when Jose Cazorla (Bryant & Stratton) doubled to left and scored on a ground ball to third by Zack Coldsnow (Old Dominion). While Coldsnow managed to advance to third, he was stranded there.
In the Tarboro fifth, Aguila was hit by a pitch with one out, then advanced to third on a single to right by Dolberry. Dolberry then stole second before the second out was recorded, putting Aguila at third and Dolberry at second with Hassert at the plate.
Both Aguila and Dolberry then scored on an error by the shortstop on a Hassert ground ball. That made the score 5-1.
The Bandits added their final run in the eighth.
Sherwin reached on a one-out single to short, then took second on a wild pitch.
With two outs, Cherry single to center to drive him in and cap the scoring for the night.
Cosentino led the way for the Bandits with two hits and an RBI while Sherwin, Hussey, Cherry, Dolberry and Hoggard all had one hit. Cherry, Aguila and Hoggard had RBIs.
On Sunday, Tarboro scored a run in the first and then added a run in the seventh.
In the top of the ninth, Smith struck out the first batter he faced, then walked the next two. After throwing 114 pitches, he was lifted and received a standing ovation from the large crowd.
Reliever Jonathan Peacock (NC Central) was ineffective, walking all three batters he faced as the Steamers tied the score at 2-2. Eli Culbreth (Gardner-Webb) then took the mound, striking out Brantley Cutler (East Tennessee) and Cole Bates (Delaware State) with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The Bandits were retired in the bottom of the frame, sending the game to extra innings.
After stranding an Edenton runner in the top of the inning, the Bandits opened their half of the 10th with a double to center by Sherwin.
Hussey then struck out before Robert Beatty (Swansboro HS) bunted to the third base side of the mound that Bates mishandled, allowing Beatty to reach and Sherwin to advance to third.
After Aguila walked to load the bases, Dolberry worked a one-and-one count before Bates threw a pitch that hit about 10-feet in front of the plate before bouncing off the catcher toward the first-base dugout.
Sherwin was moving as soon as he saw the ball bounce away from the catcher and scored the winning run.
Bandits manager Vince Fondacaro said he thought Smith was so effective in his pitching effort because he was at ease
“There were no expectations … no pressure. We asked him to do what he could and give us what he could. What he did was outstanding.”