WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Anthony Crowley and Alex Lafayette hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the 15th inning to give Westfield State University an 11-10 walk-off win over Franklin and Marshall (Pa.) College in a wild college baseball win at Chain O'Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla.
Westfield rallied for three runs in the eighth to force extra innings, came back from a two run deficit in the 12th to extend the game again, setting the table for Crowley and Lafayette's fireworks in the 15th.
The Owls were literally down to their last strike, with Crowley in the hole at 0-2 with two out. He worked the count to 3-2 and then launched a fast ball from the Diplomats' Jake Amorello over the left field fence to tie the game at 10-10.
"There were no words to describe that game, I guess." Said Crowley. "We needed a win, and I am glad it came in that fashion. That's going to be the kick in the butt to get us rolling."
Crowley was 1-7 with five strikeouts and a hit by pitch before his dramatic solo shot.
"It's crazy how you see the ball good one day, and not the next," said Crowley. In the 15th, facing the 3-2 pitch "I just think fastball, and know that I'll adjust to the curve …. He ended up throwing me a fastball."
Lafayette looked at ball one, then ripped a prodigious shot to left that carried even further than Crowley's had moments earlier. The Owls dugout exploded with celebration in greeting Lafayette at home plate.
"It was really crazy, a back and forth game, we fought really hard, there were a couple times we were down and thought we were out, but we just stuck with it" said Lafayette. "I was just trying to square the ball up, and I saw a piece on the inner half of the plate and I just put a good swing on it."
"That was my first walk off. It was crazy. All the adrenaline was going … we needed that win, too. It was something the team really needed, it was just a great moment."
Westfield got several pitching performances of surprising length on the day, getting four innings of relief from lefty Scott Strachan, and 6 and 2/3 innings of quality relief from usual closer Tyler Tongue, who had not tossed more than two innings in a game for the Owls in his collegiate career.
"I thought I was just going to finish up the ninth," said Tongue. "I was like 'C'mon, we gotta get a run, guys'."
When Tongue tired, Westfield State coach Nathan Bashaw tabbed sophomore Ross Grasso, the only other rested arm in the Owls pen to come in to get the final out in the top of the 15th.
Grasso, a converted catcher, was making his first collegiate pitching performance and induced an inning ending pop-up, and ended up picking up the win in relief.
"He threw two pitches, thank god they were both strikes, and everything worked out good." said Crowley.
"It happens a lot that turn-over day in Florida, said Bashaw regarding the pitching shortage entering the day. "We knew the deal, and it was going to be a chance for guys to step up, and we got some really good outings. To be able to cover 15 innings is very difficult."
Every healthy position player saw action for the Owls, except reserve catcher Bryant Dana. "And I actually thought about using him to pinch run at one point," said Bashaw, "but you always need a catcher in case of an emergency or you will really be in trouble."
"Everybody tried to do their job and did their job … it was really fun," said Lafayette.
Westfield improves to 3-5-1 on the season, and have battled through injuries to three projected starters, and seen the bullpen taxed in the early going in Florida.
Franklin and Marshall drops to 4-3-1 with the loss.
Westfield will have a bit of a break tomorrow, with only a 7-inning "B" squad game on tap in the morning, before returning to action on Thursday with a doubleheader against regional opponent Suffolk (Mass.) University.