PENDLETON - The most important exchange of the Gilbert Auto Legion baseball team's second game Wednesday did not come between a pitcher and a batter. Instead it was between coach Travis Zander and his pitcher Dillon Wallace in the top of the seventh inning.
Leading Baker's Team Rudi Diamondbacks by two runs and with Wallace laboring in his third inning of relief, Zander said to his pitcher after a strike out to start the inning, "You finish it. You man up right here and finish the game."
After drilling the next hitter, Wallace refocused and induced a flyout by Will Barr and struck out Coleman Lay to secure a 5-3 victory after a painful 19-12 loss in Game 1.
The Chargers led the first game late, but watched an 11-4 lead turn into a 19-12 deficit in the sixth inning. They did not give in, though, winning the night cap to earn a split.
"I didn't play that first game so I was kind of itching to play," said Wallace, who threw three innings of relief and batted throughout the second game. "I think the first game, we kind of felt like we had already beat them before the game even ended. Then they just snuck back and came back and got us."
Four different Gilbert Auto pitchers took the hill in the sixth inning, but could not stop the Diamondbacks from dropping in hit after hit until Brandon James struck out Lay to end the inning.
Zander said the team had to refocus after the loss, and simply put the sixth inning out of mind.
"It wasn't a tail chewing or anything like that," Zander said. "It was explaining what it is that makes us winners and that's our attitude and our effort. We can't let something like (Game 1) get in the way of that. I thought we came back and battled and got hits when we needed to and beat a really solid Baker team."
Tanner Livesay pitched the first four innings for Gilbert Auto and Wallace finished out the game to help a bullpen that was down to its final two arms, Davis Alderman and Reese Merriman.
Against Team Rudi pitchers Ty Everson and Justin Durflinger, it was Merriman who came through for the Chargers with three RBIs on two hits, the last two on a double to give them the 5-3 edge in the sixth inning.
Merriman, who came off the bench in the second game for Wyatt Whitten, also made two diving catches in center field, the second ending the sixth and saving a run.
"He had two great plays and two crucial RBIs," Zander said. "He broke the tie - another game-winning RBI for him. Coming off the bench he was focused and he wanted to come in the game. He was focused on the bench, I called on him and he came in and played great."