Seventh-inning rally lifts Oxford to 4-3 win over Unionville
By Steven Hoffman
Andrew Culp lined a sharp single to right field to drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as Oxford completed the comeback to defeat Unionville, 4-3, on May 1.
It was Oxford’s fourth win in five games, and coach Andy Wendle said that the team is gaining confidence and continuing to improve as the season moves toward its conclusion.
“They are playing real well right now,” Wendle said. “The kids are playing like they expect to win.”
Oxford had to overcome two deficits against Unionville. The Indians claimed the early lead in the first inning when Drew Jarmuz reached base after dropping a perfectly placed bunt with two outs. Alex Pechin stepped to the plate against Oxford hurler Nolan Benke. Jarmuz moved into scoring position by stealing second base, and Pechin delivered the two-out single to score the run.
Unionville pitcher Ryan Barrett seemed determined to make the 1-0 lead stand up. He surrendered just two hits over the first three innings.
The Indians added to their lead in the top of the third. A.J. Narcise was hit by a pitch to start the inning, followed by a walk to Eric Takoushian. With no outs, Tyler Rafetto came to the plate. The runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Rafetto hit the ball sharply, but Eddie Settine caught the liner for the first out.
Jarmuz, a very good hitter with runners in scoring position, drove a Benke fastball to right field for a sacrifice fly that plated the second run. Pechin drew a walk, but then Benke fanned Barrett to end the threat.
Barrett doggedly protected that 2-0 lead, relying on a good defense to make the plays behind him. Oxford couldn’t string together back-to-back hits, and it remained a 2-0 game until the bottom of the sixth. That’s when the Hornets’ bats suddenly came to life. Hunter Hall belted a one-out double to left. Culp followed with a double to left-center that scored Oxford’s first run. Dan Green singled sharply to right, putting runners at the corners. Settine hit a grounder to short and Unionville got the force at second, leaving runners on first and third with two outs. Settine attempted to steal second the first chance that he got, allowing Culp to break for home. Both runners were safe, tying the score at 2-2 as the game moved to the seventh inning.
To Unionville’s credit, they took the lead right back. Tyler Marmo laid down a bunt that was perfectly placed between the pitcher’s mound and third base. Benke made a nice play to get the ball, but he had to hurry his throw and it sailed wide of first. Marmo advanced to second.
Benke struck out the next hitter for the first out. But then Takoushian, who always seems to be on base, singled to put runners at the corners. With Rafetto at bat, Takoushian took second base with a steal. The Indians showed a lot of confidence in Rafetto by calling for a squeeze bunt. Rafetto got the job done, bunting the ball back toward Benke. The Oxford pitcher didn’t have enough time to field the bunt before Marmo slid safely into home. The Indians had a 3-2 lead, and they had perhaps their two most dangerous hitters, Jarmuz and Pechin, coming to the plate. Even though he’s only a sophomore, Benke is an absolute bulldog on the mound—there’s no surrender. Jarmuz got around on a Benke fastball and hit it right on the nose, but second baseman Michael Williams made a terrific catch for the second out of the inning. Benke then got Pechin to fly out to right field to keep the score at 3-2.
Unionville turned to reliever Ivan Yen in the bottom of the seventh inning. He retired the first hitter, but then Williams roped a liner just inside the first base line. Williams hustled into second base, shaking off the effects of a collision as he slid into the bag.
Noah Maida singled and then made a smart play to hustle into second base when the throw went to home plate to prevent Williams from going home.
With runners on second and third, Unionville decided to intentionally walk Zach Todd to load the bases. The move set up a force at any base and also gave the Indians a chance to end the game with a double-play.
Oxford overcame that strategy when Hall singled to score Williams, tying the game at 3-3. That set the stage for Culp, who delivered his second big hit of the game, a sharp single to right. As soon as Maida crossed home plate, Oxford’s players started to celebrate the 4-3 win, the second time that Oxford has beaten Unionville by that score this season. The late-inning heroics continued a perfect week for the Hornets, who also defeated Kennett and West Chester Henderson.
“We finally started making some solid contact in the sixth inning,” Wendle explained.
The Oxford coach said that Culp, who drove in two of Oxford’s runs, has shown some flashes of brilliance this year.
“He’s had some games where he has squared up the ball,” Wendle said.
While Oxford’s offense came through in the clutch, Benke’s contribution to the win couldn’t be overlooked. With an assortment of pitches, he was able to keep Unionville’s dangerous lineup off balance—and, for the most part, off the scoreboard. Benke battled throughout.
“That’s a huge part of it,” Wendle said. “His offense wasn’t scoring early on, but he hung in there and kept it going. He kept it as a winnable game for us.”