Considering how cold it was Tuesday night, the McDowell Titans were going to need some help from its bats and that is exactly what happened.
Down six runs in the late innings, McDowell survived a slugfest against the Erwin High Warriors by a 10-9 score at Titan Field.
Pitching was hard to come by as both teams battled command issues with game-time temperatures in the 30s and windy conditions throughout. McDowell (3-3, 1-0) gave the ball to sophomore Kyson Rinnert in the conference opener, taking the place of starter Hunter Byerly. Byerly has a shoulder injury, the severity not fully known yet.
Rinnert (4 2/3 IP, 6 ER, 8H, 9K, 3 BB) allowed three first-inning runs against the Warriors to give them an early lead. The Titans did chip into the deficit with single runs, eventually tying up the score after three frames.
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With a reset in the score, Rinnert was unfortunately not able to capitalize as Erwin jumped back in front with two in the fourth and four more in the fifth to enjoy a comfortable 9-3 advantage.
Down by that much, McDowell Coach Alex Smith put the ball in the hands of sophomore Braden Gardin, hoping to preserve his pitching staff for the rematch on Friday. Gardin provided two hitless innings of work, striking out five batters. Not only did that preserve the pitching staff, it ended up preserving the game as well.
The Titans, down 9-4, scored five times in the bottom the sixth. After striking out the side in the seventh, McDowell mustered three hits, including the game-winning hit, a single to left by Rinnert on a drawn-in infield with one out.
The seventh began with infield hit by Jacob Davis. Eli Elliott was later hit by a pitch to put a second runner on base. Isaac Gilliland then laced a single to right loading them up. Rinnert then responded with the walk-off, a hit to left on an easy swing on an 0-1 count.
The inning prior, two McDowell hits and two walks chipped into the deficit by a run. Gilliland then drove in a run on a fielder’s choice at second that made it 9-7 at that time.
Later in the frame, there were three more hits including RBI singles from Braden Beck and Rinnert that erased the six-run deficit that stood in the middle innings.
The team as a whole belted out 16 hits on Tuesday, with Davis leading the way with four hits and three runs scored. Spivey and Gilliland added three hits each. Rinnert and outfielder Noah Higgins had two hits each and Elliott along with Beck provided one hit each.
McDowell will travel to Leicester for the rematch on Thursday (5 p.m. varsity only).