ENID, Okla. — With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Anthony Cassos hit a two-run, walk-off single to cap a 10-run comeback victory for eighth-seeded Pasco-Hernando State College and eliminate top-seeded Pearl River from the NJCAA Division II World Series.
“My adrenaline is through the roof right now,” Cassos said after Pasco-Hernando’s 13-12 win Tuesday afternoon at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
“My emotions are going crazy.”
The 10-run comeback was the largest comeback win in the ballpark’s World Series history, breaking last year’s record of eight runs.
Pasco-Hernando head baseball coach Lydon Coleman said the Bobcats have seen a comeback like that before Tuesday. But with one difference.
“We were on the other end of it,” Coleman said.
On March 7, Pasco-Hernando held a five-run lead over Kalamazoo Valley Community College, but the Cougars scored nine runs in the top of the ninth inning to steal a 14-8 win. After the game, Coleman spoke with his team long after everyone had left the ballpark.
Standing on the field, the Bobcats stood in darkness — “You couldn’t see faces” — and Coleman gave his team a lesson that stuck with them from that day forward.
“You’re never out of a baseball game,” Coleman said. “You’re only out of a game when the last out is made.”
In the first half of the season, Coleman said Paso-Hernando was a team that struggled in close games, whether ahead or behind. He spoke with his team about not just dealing with failure but overcoming failure.
Then, toward the end of the season, everything clicked.
“We started coming back when we were down by two or three,” Coleman said. “We learned, we made adjustments and this team has learned to overcome adversity.”
That mentality carried the Bobcats through the rest of the season and through the Region 8 and Southeast District tournaments before ultimately making it to the semifinal round of the World Series.
“You have to do whatever it takes,” Coleman said. “You have to believe in the next guy behind you, especially in those situations because you just have to get to the next guy … just to give yourself a chance.”
The ninth inning was actually the second comeback of the game for Pasco-Hernando. The first came in the bottom of the fourth. Down 3-0, Cassos hit his first two-run single to cut the lead to one. Then, Connor Berry hit a single to shallow center to tie the game.
Pearl River couldn’t extend its lead in the top of the ninth but the Wildcats still held a four-run lead. After a leadoff walk by Nicholas Alessi, Pearl River retired its first batter on a groundout. Then Pearl River reliever Deyton Lingle walked his next batter and was relieved by Trenton Lee, who walked Michael Mayor to load the bases.
Jermaine White hit a bouncing ball straight to Lee, who threw home to prevent the run and record the second out. But Lee walked his next three batters and Paco-Hernando was one run away from tying.
When Cassos approached the plate, his initial plan was to draw a walk, too. But when Lee was relieved by Evan Bynam, his plans changed. Coleman’s scouting report on Bynam was that he was a fastball pitcher, Cassos said.
The first pitch was a fastball strike. Cassos expected the next pitch to be a fastball. He was right. Cassos connected with Bynum’s pitch for a line drive to right-centerfield and drove in the game-winning two runs.
“We fought, we just didn’t get it done,” said Pearl River head coach Michael Avalon. “Give credit to them (Pasco-Hernando), they got it done and they kept battling.”
Avalon bore the weight of Pearl River’s loss following the game. He said the Wildcats are a better team than what they showed on Tuesday, which falls on his shoulders.
Pearl River held a 12-3 lead over Pasco-Hernando through six-and-a-half innings. In the top of the sixth, the Wildcats tacked eight runs onto their previous 4-3 lead. Two wild pitches and a bases-loaded walk made it 7-3 before Kolby Donaldson hit a grand slam for an 11-3 lead.
Matt Taylor capped off the sixth inning with an RBI single. But Pasco-Hernando staged its 10-run comeback through the final three innings and scored six runs off Lingle.
“I’m not going to let the last day define who they are,” Avalon said. “They’re champions. I’m just real glad I got to be their coach.”
Pasco-Hernando will now play fifth-seeded Northern Oklahoma College Enid (40-17) Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the semifinal round at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.