Lexington, Ky. – In a game hosted by the Transylvania baseball team at a minor league ballpark, the Pioneers outlasted the Defiance Yellow Jackets, 15-14 in a game that possessed major league length.
The Pioneers and Yellow Jackets dueled for 11 innings, or four hours and eight minutes according to the official clock. Along the way the 11-inning marathon featured 34 combined hits, two back-to-back four run innings by each team, an erasure of an eight-run deficit by the Pioneers, extra-inning gameplay, an intentional walk to a switch-hitter who took pitches from both ends of the box, a catcher's interference, seven errors, and a plethora of other colorful events.
The game was punctuated by a nine-run sixth inning by Transylvania that led the Pioneers back from a 13-5 deficit and a game-winning walkoff hit by Daniel Seitzinger, making the Pioneers the first team to reach 15 runs.
The Yellow Jackets cycled through four different pitchers while the Pioneers utilized nine, with starter Trey Simpson and closing reliever Kameron Schwartz each lasting the longest with 3 2/3 innings pitched.
The Pioneers opened up the first of a three-game Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference series with Defiance on Friday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Single-A Lexington Legends on "Legends Night."
In front of a well-attended Lexington and pro-Transylvania crowd, the Pioneers enjoyed as good of a start as they could have envisioned on one of their most special nights of the season from a festivities standpoint. The level of competitive fire and dramatic twists and turns on the field soon exceeded the pregame joviality.
The starter Simpson retired three of the first four batters he saw and the Pioneers rolled into the bottom of the first with their offense ready to fire away. The versatile Simpson led off the order by clouting a no-doubter over the left field fence to give Transy an immediate 1-0 lead. Connor Blevens, Taylor Henley, and Kody Ross all subsequently followed with singles to score the second run of the game. After Hunter Jones made it to first base after an infield error, Transylvania loaded the bases, setting up a Gage Beavers double to drive in runs three and four of the Pioneers' afternoon.
But the Pioneers' cushion was short-lived as Defiance tied things up in the top of the second inning after an untimely error brought in three unearned runs to conclude the frame. The Yellow Jackets took control of the first half of the game, scoring four runs in the second, one run in the third, two runs in the fourth, and six runs in the fifth while knocking both Simpson and reliever Tom Banahan out of the game.
Transylvania answered with one run in the bottom of the fourth courtesy of a Jones RBI single up the pipe to score Henley to remain viable. But a seemingly interminable top of the fifth inning by Defiance in which the visitors struck with six runs on five hits threatened to shut down Transylvania for the night.
After a lengthy first five innings which nearly exhausted two hours of time, the Pioneers began forming their response over the back end of the game.
Trailing 13-5 into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Pioneers put together an inning for the ages. Blevins and Henley each led off by reaching base: The Danville, Kentucky native did so with a single and Henley followed with a walk. Kody Ross provided the first spark of hope with an RBI double to bring home Blevins, making a 13-6 Defiance score. After a Yellow Jackets pitching change, Hunter Jones got on base after a shortstop error and Ross and Henley each scored in the process to quickly pull within five of Defiance. With just one out, Rex Rogers drew a walk and Daniel Seitzinger was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Trey Simpson. Now in a designated hitter role for the rest of the night, Simpson delivered a massive double to clear the bases and create a new game with the Pioneers now trailing just 13-11.
The comeback continued as Aaron Johnson caught the contagious hitting feeling and drove in Simpson with a base hit to left field. Having batted around in the inning, Blevins stepped up to bat once more and was hit by a pitch. Henley reached base for the second time in the inning with a base hit to drive in Johnson and improbably tally the Pioneers' eighth and tying run of the inning. Transylvania put the pedal to the medal as Ross singled to drive in Blevins for a 14-13 Pioneer advantage.
Transylvania carried the lead into the top of the eighth inning before Defiance ensured that the game was far from over. A one-out double by Ryan Kohlhofer tied the game at 14. Transylvania couldn't find the elusive run in the bottom of the eighth and a quick top of the ninth inning by Pios pitcher Kam Schwartz pushed his team to the bottom of the ninth looking for a walk-off blow. But with Seitzinger on at first, Simpson struck out looking on a low strike three pitch to send the game into extra innings.
The Pios held Defiance in check in the top of the 10th inning, stranding a runner at third base, but were unable to come up with a game-winner in the bottom of the inning. Schwartz kept up his intensity by striking out the first two batters he faced in the 11th to quickly conclude the inning.
After being denied the previous two innings with a walk-off chance, the 11th inning was the charm for Transylvania. Kody Ross led off the 11th with a walk to immediately put Transylvania in a position of power. Hunter Jones delivered a sacrifice bunt to move Ross over to second base with still two outs to spare. Defiance elected to intentionally walk Jared Williams, a decision that was compromised when Rex Rogers followed with a single. With the bases loaded, Daniel Seitzinger drove a deep shot towards the right field line that had all the necessary distance to bring home Ross for the win.
Transylvania improves to 8-10 overall, and 4-2 in HCAC play. Both teams return to Whitaker Bank Ballpark tomorrow at 12 noon for the first of a two-game doubleheader. The final game of the series is scheduled for approximately 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.
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To see Seitzinger's game-winning hit, view the video on the @TransySports twitter account.