AMHERST — Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.
Just ask Amherst designated hitter Caleb McGee.
McGee took a ball to the shoulder to drive in the game-winning run as the Comets downed Avon 9-8 in a big Southwestern Conference game Monday.
“When I go up there, I’m thinking that there’s a lot of stress on my back,” McGee said. “I’m optimistic. I’m going up there with a positive mentality.”
Amherst (9-3, 6-2 SWC) stayed a game behind first-place Lakewood in the league standings, Avon fell to 7-5, 4-3. Amherst is at Lakewood on Thursday.
The Comets had their work cut out for them trailing 8-4 heading to the bottom of the seventh. But Amherst, which had just three hits to that point, saved its best for last.
Jason Monos reached on an error and McGee singled. Eric Ritter then drove in Monos with a hit to make it 8-5.
After Luke Feakins drew a walk, TJ Staton drilled a two-run double to pull the Comets within one and Kyle Dalzell sent the game to extra innings with a sacrifice fly.
In the eighth, Amherst turned to Dalzell, its third pitcher of the game, to try to shut down the Eagles. He did just that, allowing only one baserunner while striking out two.
“I just wanted to blow the fastball by them and drop the curveball,” Dalzell said. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters. This game gets a lot of stress off us.”
Amherst had the top of the order up in the eighth and took advantage.
Josh Qualls started things off with a double and Monos followed with a single to put runners on the corner. Jacob Lezon was then intentionally walked to load the bases and McGee followed with the big hit.
“I don’t think either team played a great game defensively,” Amherst coach Matt Rositano said. “Both teams’ pitchers pitched well. We were just able to take advantage of a couple more mistakes than they were. The defensive errors, a little bit of it is focus, and we’ll learn from it and move on.”
Ryan Starr threw six solid innings for Avon, battling through some tough spots. He allowed four runs but just two were earned.
“He knows that I can step up in a big game and actually compete with another very good ballclub like Amherst,” Starr said of Eagles coach Craig Kirschner. “It was a big game so towards the beginning I was nervous. As I continued to throw strikes and got outs, I settled in and focused on getting outs rather than getting the ball past them.”
Logan Allomong relived Starr in the seventh. He allowed five runs, all earned, and didn’t get an out in the eighth.
“When you look at the game of baseball you have a lot of ups and downs and we saw that this game,” Kirschner said. “In terms of just a complete baseball game, I thought our guys played actually really, really well.”