Franklin County second baseman Tom Wing, far left, and pitcher Ryan Pratt (1) watch as first baseman Corey Rogers puts the tag on Augusta’s Taylor Heath (2) after a rundown in an American Legion Zone II baseball playoff at Morton Field in Augusta on Tuesday night.
AUGUSTA — After spending 11 long innings behind the plate, Augusta catcher Mark Buzzell wanted to go home and have dinner with the family.
A weary and frustrated Buzzell decided to step up and put an end to Tuesday’s American Legion Zone II baseball playoff game at muggy and hazy Morton Field.
He ripped a double to right field in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending home Ryan Sinclair, who got on due to an error, for the winning run to give third-ranked Augusta a 3-2 victory over sixth-ranked Franklin County.
“Obviously, I had calmness the whole game. I was ready to go home,” Buzzell said. “Getting tired. We all were, so someone needed to do something, and I have been struggling this year, so I went out with a clear head and just hoped for the best. Survived another day, ready for tomorrow.”
“(Buzzell) works hard. His work ethic is second to none,” Augusta coach Tim Rodrigue said. “He works very hard at what he does. So when he is up to bat … I am always confident. He doesn’t cave under pressure. I was really excited that he got that hit. He deserves it. He works hard.”
Both teams heroically tried to put a cork in a game that seemed to go on for an eternity. You could see the worn look on tired players as they took the field in the bottom of the 11th.
Sinclair reached on an error, and Buzzell stepped to the plate and swatted the ball, which bounced and bounced along the right-field line as Sinclair raced home.
“Nerve-wracking game. It was trying to think I have to worry about pitching,” Rodrigue said. “The pitching rules are in force with nine-inning games. It was quite a chore when you are not hitting the ball.
“When we are hitting the ball, it makes life a lot easier. I used up a lot pitchers day. Luckily we are deep and have a lot depth in pitching, or we would have been in trouble otherwise.”
Augusta made four pitching changes, while Franklin’s Ryan Pratt courageously stood his ground for nine innings before Nate Goodine finished out the 10th and 11th innings.
“He’s (Pratt) a kid who has played for me for six years,” Franklin County coach Kyle Gunzinger said. “Ryan is a special kid. He came in the eighth grade because we didn’t have enough kids (for the team). The ultimate competitor of anyone I have coached in 20 years of coaching.
“Ryan is a special kid from a special family. They are just fantastic people, and it spills into the baseball field.”
Augusta figured out a way to get around Pratt’s stubborn behavior in the second and third innings. Designated hitter Nick Turcotte got on with a single and scored on an RBI single by Taylor Heath in the second inning. Augusta collected another run in the third when Sinclair smashed a one-run double, scoring Kolbe Merfeld, who got on with a hit.
With August leading 2-0 going into fourth inning, Franklin County engineered a two-run surprise.
Goodine singled and Tom Wing walked. With two outs, designated hitter Miles Pelletier belted a line drive that was knocked down by Augusta third baseman Dean Jackman, but it was too late for him to make a play, as Goodine and Wing came across with the tying runs.
Franklin County had a chance to punch in the winning run in the eighth inning with the bases loaded but failed to deliver. Austin Gilboe doubled in the 10th inning and moved all the way to third base, from which tried to score, but was stopped at the plate by Buzzell.
Ryan Pratt, who pitched nine tense innings of baseball for Franklin County, goes into his wind-up against Augusta in a Legion Zone II playoff game Tuesday night.Franklin County pitcher Ryan Pratt tries to beat throw to Augusta first baseman Cole Lockart after Pratt laid down a sacrifice bunt in a Legion Zone II playoff game at Morton Field in Augusta on Tuesday night.