NORWICH–Mere minutes after my arrival at Friday's Norwich, Chenango Valley baseball game, Derek Manwarren had given up a run.
The pitcher appeared nervous after Chenango Valley's Kolby Ross crossed the plate on a Mark Mullins base hit in the top of the second.
Ross hit, stole second, and advance to third on a Gavin Ashman roller right back to the mound.
He had literally run circles around Manwarren.
I had doubts about the outcome of the game from the jump, but Manwarren and his team members would make me a believer before long.
After watching the offense fizzle following a pure swinging double out of Cody Barnes, Manwarren was back on the hill.
Zach Cole came up, top three, and drove Manwarren's first pitch into left field for a base hit.
But before I could note any shortcomings in Manwarren's delivery, he picked Cole off at first.
He earned the second out, getting Harold Jones to fly out, but an error at third and a Manwarren misfire, when he hit Matt Personius, put runners in scoring position.
Kolby Ross, the run scorer from inning two, came to bat.
Ross smacked the pitch down the line and had the glove of first baseman Cody Barnes not suddenly appeared in front of the hard hit ball, two runs would have scored.
Barnes made a difficult play on instinct and reflex, flashing leather and stepping gingerly on the bag for the third inning's final out.
The top of the fourth would see Gavin Ashman score a run after two Norwich infield errors.
Manwarren wasn't overpowering Chenango Valley but he was generating playable balls. The Tornado defense looked shaky and stiff.
Jake Walsh came alive in the top of the fifth, making a great throw to sit down Brian Cox followed by a tough play at short stop to get Gavin Ashman out at first.
Meanwhile Manwarren was gaining steam. The CV at bats grew shorter, most ending in weakly hit grounders or long, high fly outs.
Manwarren spent the preseason begging Norwich varsity head baseball coach Rich Turnbull to start this season.
“Last year he pitched a game for us at Chenango Forks and I saw something in him,” Turnbull said, “ I thought, maybe he can help us this year.”
He worked all offseason with coaches on placement of the ball. He said he remembered that and placed the ball where he knew they would hit it to one of his teammates and trusted the guys behind him.
In the bottom half of the fifth, the Tornado would not take no for an answer.
Jake Walsh lead off with a deep rip to the left field corner and Josh Haines moved him over with a bunt.
Up came Cody Barnes.
Barnes laid off a heater for ball one.
He sent two outside pitches into foul territory and was determined to move Walsh to third.
He kept the bat boy busy, fouling baseballs back until he saw something he could put into play.
A low inside breaking ball and Barnes did what was asked of him, pushing the ball back up the middle and allowing the runner to advance.
With two outs, John Yacano stepped into the box.
Yacano got two strikes on him in a hurry but worked the count full with Walsh on third base.
A deep fly-ball in the gap in right-center drove in Walsh for the Purple's first run of the game.
Yacano must have been fired up after his RBI because in the top of the seventh, he made a pin-point throw from home to second base, putting the ball in the perfect spot for Chris Trevisani to apply the tag to the top of the runners head for the out.
Another CV run would score in the seventh but Norwich had lit a fire that would burn into extra innings...
Bottom seven, Robert Jeffrey drops a one out single over the first baseman's head.
Chenango Valley pitcher Jacob Hertzog was relieved by Max Telfer, but the Tornado train was already in motion.
Jake Walsh came up big again, fighting back from down two strikes to draw a two out walk and with runners on first and second Josh Haines reached on a throwing error to load the bases.
With CV leading 3-1, Cody Barnes came up to bat.
His hit to second would have been a routine out in any other game on any other day, but first baseman Mark Mullins came off the bag and one run scored.
John Yacano then hit a two out bases loaded line drive to left, scoring one run and the game was tied at three.
Coach Turnbull sent the runner from third in an attempt to make Yacano's hit a walk off. The runner was tagged out at home and the game went into extra innings.
Turnbull was down on himself for waving the runner around but when he got back to his dug out, his team was telling him to pick his head up because they knew they were going to win this game.
Still pitching, Manwarren came out and retired the side in order, with a clutch strikeout on the final batter, Jaren Moss, his only strikeout of the game.
All told Manwarren would throw 127 pitch in nine innings, allowing only three hits, all with a broken finger.
“My arm felt fine the whole time,” Manwarren said, “I kept telling coach leave me in, leave me in. I can take it.”
“I can't think of any other player I'm more proud of,” Turnbull said.
In the bottom of the ninth, Chris Trevisani dug out a single after a fielding error.
Up came shortstop Jake Walsh, fresh off a few spectacular defensive plays in the top of the inning and with the winning runner base.
Walsh came up with one out, and missed on the first pitch he saw. Two pick off attempts later and the count was now 1-2.
Walsh worked Telfer, fouling balls back until he got his pitch.
A hopping ground ball down the third base line sent Trevisani from first to third.
Trevisani scored on the next pitch, a passed ball and the Tornado won in dramatic fashion.
Score by Inning R H E
Nor. 000 001 201 4 7 4
CV. 010 100 100 3 4 5
Derek Manwarren (W) and John Yacano. Jacob Hertzog, Max Telfer (7) (L) and Matt Personius. Doubles: Cody Barnes.