The look on Jimmy Turner’s face was evidence of the relief that surrounded the FPD baseball program Friday afternoon.
FPD’s head coach was almost speechless after his Vikings held on to beat George Walton 8-5 in Game 3 of their GISA Class AAA semifinal series.
FPD entered the seventh inning with an 8-2 lead only to see George Walton score three runs on two singles, three walks and a hit batter and get the go-ahead run to the plate with no outs.
The Vikings used four pitchers in the inning and weren’t able to nail down the win until Nick Mullis forced a ground out to Robert Thompson at third base. Thompson calmly stepped on third base for a force out to send the Vikings to the AAA championship series.
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“I can’t even think right now,” Turner said. “We just couldn’t throw strikes. The guys were struggling to find the strike zone until Nick came in there and shut the door. Unbelievable. Wow.”
Mullis did get the final three outs, but even he was a little nervous in the final inning. But after settling down, he forced a pop out to catcher Austin Herrmann, recorded a strikeout and induced the groundball to Thompson to end the game.
“I was real nervous and excited at the same time,” Mullis said. “As you could tell with the first couple of batters, it took me a second to get dialed in. But once I got dialed in, I felt pretty good. My heart dropped there for a second when he hit that ball (on the final out), but then Robert made the play, and it was just relief.”
Like the pitching staff in the final inning, it took the Vikings’ offense some time to get going early in the game.
George Walton’s Kyle Leach held the Vikings hitless through the first three innings, but FPD’s offense woke up in the fourth inning. The Vikings sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the inning, highlighted by two-run double by Taylor Harden and a two-run single by David Darnell.
The Vikings kept things going in the fifth when they added three more runs, all with two outs. Harden started the rally with a walk and stole second base, going to third base on an error by George Walton catcher Jacoby Patterson. Harden scored on a single to left field by Sam Joyce, and Tim Stokes ripped a no-doubt home run over the left-field fence.
“I took a really bad hack on the first pitch, and Coach just told me to wait on my pitch and take a good swing,” Stokes said. “He threw me one right down the middle, and I just got a good swing.”
As it turned out, the Vikings needed the three insurance runs in the final inning. And because of that, they will be moving on to the state title series next week.
“It’s just incredible,” Turner said. “We had talked about how this was a test of our faith and the things we believe in. We passed that test, and we’re ready for the next one.”