LUTZ- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Steinbrenner (2-2, 2-0) makes their games strictly pitching duels. And when they went up against franchise rival and district rival, the Wiregrass Ranch Bulls (1-2, 0-2) Friday night, that’s exactly what happened as one of the remaining bash brothers of high school baseball took the mound.
But after two and a half hours of back and forth strikeouts by Bull’s Austin Drury and the Warriors starting pitcher, Ryan Fatzinger, a break finally came through.
“I thought we had Drury’s number earlier but he ended [up] shutting us out,” said shortstop Colby Burchardt. “It feels good to beat them.”
In extra innings, in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, and a two and two count against top of the order hitter, center fielder Brandon Johnson, he took a ball down the middle and hit a shallow blooper into left center field. Normally for Johnson, it would just mean a chance for him to round the bases like he usually does hoping to be eventually knocked in. But for once, it was the other way around. One batter before, Burchardt stepped up to the plate, took four balls for a walk, and waited for a chance to steal second during Johnson’s at-bat.
And after doing just that, with zeroes on the scoreboard for both teams, he looked at his tired team sitting on the bench, and knew exactly what had to be done. And so, Johnson swung his bat, sent a ball into play, and allowed Burchardt to do the rest. The crowd rose, the players screamed with excitement, and head coach John Crumbley waved his arms in a continuous circle signaling to Burchardt to go full speed around third heading for home, Burchardt went into “too fast” mode and slid in the dirt gliding across home plate with a ball from the center fielder being thrown off target to home. After nine innings and two and a half hours of baseball, the scoreboard finally showed change.
“It was my first walk-off. It was exciting. I was just running around hugging teammates,” said Johnson. “I felt like I just needed to do something. A man on second base and we work on this stuff every day. I had to do the job.”
Ryan Fatzinger had one of his best performances yet as a Warrior throwing 15 strikeouts, 115 pitches, and giving up only one walk and four hits. But after getting into trouble in the 7th inning, the Warriors changed pitchers in the eighth, giving Al Alberger a chance to finish what Fatzinger had started and thus earning his first win of the season.
“This team believes. Even though we started off 0-2, we are 2-0 in the district, and we are riding this,” said Fatzinger.
Written by Evan Abramson/Online Sports Editor