COLUMBIA STATION — If you hang it, he’ll bang it.
That’s exactly what Columbia’s Carson Heidecker did after not seeing a pitch for about an hour — he received a pair of intentional walks earlier in the game — smacking a hanging curveball on the first pitch in the bottom of the sixth for a double to drive in two runs and give Columbia a 4-3 win over Lutheran West for a little breathing room in the Stripes Division of the Patriot Athletic Conference.
The win moves the Raiders to 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the PAC, while the Longhorns fall to 7-4 and 5-3. The teams tangle again today at Lutheran West at 5 p.m.
“I got to see six or seven pitches, so I was ready when I got a chance to swing the bat,” Heidecker said. “ (Longhorns starter John Smolik) changed things around and started off the top of the order with curveballs, so I was looking for it when I got up there.”
Columbia needed the late heroics after Lutheran West put up three runs in the top of the sixth, chasing Columbia starter Nick Milluzzi, who only allowed one hit through five innings before giving up a pair of hits and a walk to spark the Longhorns rally.
Ryan Szczepinski drew a bases-loaded walk off reliever Charlie Simon (1-0), Trey DeCicio knocked home a run with a sacrifice fly to right and Lutheran West grabbed a 3-2 lead when Hunter Albers drew the second bases-loaded walk of the inning.
Simon finally got out of the jam by striking out the ninth batter to come to the plate.
The Raiders wasted no time answering as Brandon Coleman singled to left, Milluzzi walked and Danny Snakovsky dropped down a bunt single to load the bases off Smolik.
Smolik got a pop-up to short and a strikeout to put Lutheran West on the verge of escaping the inning, but Heidecker jumped on the curveball, driving it down the left-field line and scoring Coleman and pinch runner Thomas Hones for the lead.
“We knew this was going to be a battle, we have eight football guys on this team and one thing they are not going to do is give up,” Raiders coach Dan Durante said. “Both of these guys (Milluzzi and Smolik) pitched great and we got Heidecker up there when they had to pitch to him.”
After his heroics at the plate, Heidecker took over on the mound and picked up his third save of the year, getting a come-backer to the mound, a groundball to short and a strikeout to preserve the one-run win.
“This was huge for us, but we have to be ready to come back (today) and be ready to come out with the same energy,” Heidecker said. “We’ve been working hard since December and everyone has gotten so much better, we’re really starting to put it all together.”
“This is what we expected,” Longhorns coach Trey Lamb said. “We saw their scores and knew (the Raiders) weren’t giving up a lot of runs. We have had some trouble scoring runs, so we knew this was going to be a tight game.”