Coyotes coach Shawn Humberger could hardly believe it, while Crusaders skipper Tim Onofrei truly was in disbelief.
Northwest Nazarene held a nine-run advantage over Canyon County rival the College of Idaho after four innings Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough, as the C of I rallied in bunches to score a surprising 13-11 win at Elmore Vail Field in a nonconference duel.
“I guess that’s why you play nine,” Humberger said, as his team scored three in the fifth, five in the sixth and tied the game with a run in the seventh. “... It’s not very often you’re down by nine runs, come back and win a game.
“That’s the first thing I said, nice job, that’s one of the better comeback’s I’ve been associated with in baseball,” Humberger added of his postgame speech to his team. “It just doesn’t happen very often, so good job.”
Onofrei’s message to his team was vastly different.
“What I told them down the line afterward is I’ll wear that loss, chalk that up to me and nothing else,” NNU’s coach said. “I figured with an 11-2 lead it was a chance to see some depth, to reserve some pitching, to start thinking about what was coming up for the weekend.”
“Hard lesson for me to learn, but that loss, that’s what I told them, I’ll wear that one.”
Onofrei had 11 reasons to be optimistic early, as NNU (11-7, 0-4 GNAC) scored three runs in the first, then Charlie Gorzo’s three-run homer capped a five-run second.
The C of I got two of their own in the third, but the Crusaders answered with a two-run Sean McDonald single and an RBI double by Zach Steele for an 11-2 lead.
The game then changed as C of I’s Taylor Nicholson jogged in from the bullpen.
Nicholson got a ground-out to end the third, then worked out of a lead-off hit batter for a scoreless fourth, giving his team a spark.
“Don’t give up any runs,” Nicholson said he thought as he took the mound. “Just keep us in the game ‘cause then we can pull that out like we did, get some runs then get some confidence back in our hitters.”
The confidence returned at the plate with a three-run rally in the fifth, then Tanner Hodges’ three-run triple highlighted a five-run sixth, and the lead was 11-10.
“We were relaxed at the plate, just had relaxed at-bats and got back in it” Humberger said. “Usually you’ll see, I’ve seen a lot of comeback’s like that where a team’s relaxed, starts swinging and as soon as it gets close they tighten up and think, oh, we’ve got to score. We just stayed relaxed, so that was great.”
Relaxed, the Yotes tied it on an RBI double by Izaac Garsez in the seventh, then Zachary Fabricius’ sacrifice fly to left plated the winner in the eighth.
That gave Fabricius the win, as he worked three scoreless innings in relief of Nicholson, closing out the game.