Entering Navajo’s final at bat at Sayre last night, the Indians were behind 8-7. Curtis Goodson had just completed six innings on the mound for Navajo.
Navajo held some momentum even though they found themselves behind on the scoreboard. Goodson had not allowed a hit since the third inning after Sayre had got to him for seven hits in the first three innings.
“After the third inning,” said coach Weston Winters, “Curtis really started locating his off-speed stuff nicely. Sayre jumped on his fastball in the early innings.”
That off-speed stuff eventually recorded 10 strikeouts for Goodson and the Indians.
With just three outs to go, Maxwell Smith was looking for any way possible to get on base. Anytime you lead off an inning, especially the late innings, you just try to reach base safely. A runner on base with no outs usually scores and the Indians were desperate for one runner to score.
Again, Winters flipped the switch on conventional baseball wisdom. He allowed his hitters to swing away instead of the usual take until you get a strike when you are behind in your final at-bat.
The strategy paid off as Smith took the first-ball fastball from Sayre’s ace deep over the left-centerfield wall. The shot traveled over the large scoreboard at Sayre and the dugout exploded.
With one swing, Smith squared the game for the Indians.
“It was a no-doubter,” said Winters.
Smith didn’t reach base to lead the inning, he touched them all. Navajo still needed a base runner to get things started. I’m sure it was nice for Navajo to see Jake Hall digging into his footprint in the batter’s box.
Hall was 3-3 on the day already. For those keeping count, that put Hall 25-30 for the season.
Sayre must not read my articles or they would have known not to pitch to Jake. Hall had a home run earlier in the game. With the count 2-2, Hall blasted his second home run of the afternoon. This time it was a shot over the wall that would prove to be the game winner. Smith and Hall had put the Indians ahead in back-to-back fashion.
Navajo would plate another run before they were done hitting in the seventh inning.
Goodson threw a scoreless bottom half of the inning and Navajo claimed the 10-8 win on the road.
For the day, Hall was 4-4 with two home runs and four RBIs. Smith was 2-4 with a home run, a double and two RBIs. Ethan Taylor added two singles on a 2-3 day.
“It was a good come from behind win,” said Winters, “but we are getting into a habit of falling behind early. That will eventually catch up to us. That’s what got us beat against the Pioneers.”
Navajo is now 9-1 on the year and will play at Sayre in the Shortgrass Conference Tournament on Thursday at 5 p.m. against Carnegie.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076