POLAND – If Johnny Damon hits a game-winning homer against the Boston Red Sox this summer, or if Adam Vinatieri kicks a last-second field goal to beat the Patriots this fall, Brent Cary will know how they feel.
Cary, who transferred to Poland Regional High School after being a key cog in St. Dom’s first state championship last year, came back to haunt his old mates Friday. The senior clubbed a dramatic three-run homer to cap a six-run rally that tied the game in the seventh, then knocked in the winning run with a single in the ninth to give Poland a 9-8 comeback win.
“That was awesome. I didn’t think it was going to happen, down by six in the last innings,” said Cary, who was the Saints’ DH in last year’s state title game. “We showed a lot of heart there.”
After striking out in his previous three at-bats against former teammate Brady Blackman, Cary pounced on a two-out, 2-1 fastball from the Saints’ ace, deposited it over the left-field fence and pumped his fist repeatedly as he rounded the bases.
“I was just thinking a single the entire time because Brady was owning me this game,” he said. “I knew Brady was tired. He’d just thrown a bunch of curve balls in the dirt, so I was thinking fastball.”
Poland (3-0) loaded the bases with nobody out to set up Cary’s encore in the ninth. He swung at the first pitch he saw from reliever Tom Edgecomb and lined it into left field to plate Will Griffiths with the winning run.
“This is the second comeback win that we’ve had. (The last comeback against) Yarmouth was a similar situation,” Poland coach Dave Jordan said. “They’re showing the heart of a champion for a very young team.”
St. Dom’s (0-1) broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth by scoring two runs without benefit of a hit. Five walks (three intentional) and a throwing error during a run-down made it 4-2, and the Saints seemed to have it salted away when three more Poland errors and a two-run single by Andy Allen made it 8-2 in the seventh.
But Jake Sproul (three-for-four) got the game-tying rally started with a one-out single and made it to second when Dustin Oberlander, the Saints’ freshman third baseman, elected to try to force him out rather than get the sure out at first.
One out later, Oberlander bobbled a grounder his way that could have led to a force out at third for the final out. That kept the inning alive for Joe Douglass, who belted a bases-clearing double to make it 8-5. Eric Picard’s infield single then set up Cary’s three-run blast.
“If we make the plays in the seventh, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Saints’ coach Bob Blackman said. “We had some guys who I think some nerves set in, being their first game. I wish we hadn’t thrown a fastball down the middle to two guys, too. It’s just a hard way to lose.”
Blackman was dominating (14 strikeouts, one walk) the Knights until Griffiths made him pay for his first mistake and tied the game at 2-2 with a two-run pinch hit homer in the fifth.
“Brady’s one of the best high school pitchers that I’ve seen in a long time. We work a lot on staying focused, staying relaxed, and these guys really believe in that,” Jordan said. “Will Griffiths had a huge hit.”
Griffiths also came up big in relief, pitching out of bases-loaded jams in the sixth and ninth to pick up his second win out of the bullpen this season.