A towering, walk-off home run by Phillip Boykin (Norfolk State) with one out in the seventh lifted the Tarboro River Bandits to a 2-1 victory over Fuquay-Varina to win the Carolina Virginia Collegiate League championship Saturday night before a raucous crowd in Tarboro’s Municipal Stadium.
When Boykin connected with the one-out pitch from reliever Andrew Johnston, the crowd erupted in what seemed like a choreographed explosion of cheers, whistles and applause.
Likewise, as Boykin rounded the bases, his River Bandits teammates sprinted from the dugout to begin the celebration.
“It was like two heavyweights (fighters) squaring off and trading punches back and forth,” River Bandits Head Coach Brandon Matthews said following the game.
And it was Boykin who landed a massive shot to put an end to the battle.
“It’s only fitting that Phillip did it,” Matthews said. “He got us off to a hot start this season and he’s been struggling of late. If anyone deserved that hit, he did.”
Runs were at a premium for both teams as starting pitchers Trent Montgomery (Catawba) for the Twins and Colt Webb (Charleston) for the River Bandits each had outings worthy of a championship.
The Bandits got six strong innings from Webb before an ankle issue caused Matthews to go to the bullpen for Jordan Leggett in the seventh.
“Again, I can’t say enough about our pitching,” Matthews said. “Colt had a tremendous game, and that’s after he worked a construction job before taking the mound.”
Webb, a late season pick-up for the Bandits, started the day atop a house on a roofing job for his construction company employer.
Webb scattered three hits, including a solo home run by Gunner Tolston (Mount Olive) in his outing.
To say Webb was effective would be an understatement, as he struck out nine and walked two. He was in trouble just once, when Fuquay-Varina managed to get a runner to third in the third.
As they have all season, the Bandits took a quick lead in the first, putting together back-to-back-to-back hits by Kasey Caras (Messiah), Trevon Smith (Glenville State) and Matthew Cutler (Maryland-Eastern Shore) to take a 1-0 lead in the first.
But it was an inning of “what if’s” as Smith’s double went straight for a gate in the outfield fence in left-center.
As he went after the ball, left-fielder Zach Williams (Campbell) crashed through the gate with the fielded ball, appearing to leave the field of play.
Instead of calling a ground-rule double, the base umpire allowed play to continue and Caras, who looked safe in his slide, was called out at home.
Cutler drove Smith home when a fly ball fell safely between Williams and shortstop Collin Wolf (Campbell) before Montgomery got a strikeout to get out of the inning.
Like Webb, Montgomery was stingy in allowing baserunners — permitting just four over the next five innings.
Montgomery was not overpowering, recording just five strikeouts, but he did get six groundouts and six fly-outs.
Tarboro (27-11) reached the championship game with wins over Wake Forest and Fuquay-Varina on Thursday and Friday, while the Twins (27-17) beat the Carolina Pirates, lost to the River Bandits, beat the Pirates a second time on Saturday and then lost to the Bandits for the title.