The Destroyers kicked off the NYCBL western division playoffs with a home game against Olean Tuesday July 23. Originally scheduled for Monday, the match was postponed until Tuesday because of rain. The win or go home game was worth the wait, as the Destroyers treated fans to a nine-inning thriller.
Brandon Quigley carried the load for the Destroyers on the mound, going eight innings and recording nine strikeouts and just two earned runs.
Olean scored the first run of the game on a bases loaded walk in the third.
The Destroyers wouldn’t have an answer for the Oilers score until the sixth. Colton Evans led off the inning with a single. After Andrew Walker recorded Mansfield’s first out of the inning on a swinging strikeout, Devan Nail stepped into the batter’s box.
Nail has come up big for the Destroyers all season. During the regular season he logged a .317 average with 26 hits and led the Destroyers with four home runs and 23 RBIs.
Nail watched the first pitch go by for a ball. On the next pitch, Nail whiffed on a swinging strike. With the count 1-1, Nail dug into the right-handed batter’s box as Nathan Holt unloaded the third pitch of the at-bat. Nail pounced on the ball, crushing it over the fence for a two-run homer to give the Destroyers their first lead of the contest.
Mansfield held a 2-1 lead until the eighth, when the Oilers Branden Myers platted Dominic Cecere with a single to right.
Now tied, the Destroyers needed to respond on offense. With Evans on third and Walker on second, Tim Carroll stepped up to the plate. Carroll knocked the first pitch of his at-bat into right field for the timely sacrifice fly, scoring Evans from third.
Back on top heading into the ninth, all Mansfield needed was three outs to move on to the western division championship series against Niagara. But the Oilers weren’t going to make it easy. Capitalizing on miscues by the Destroyers defense, the Oilers Jacob Victor was waiting on third base ready to tie the game. With the count 2-2, the ball got away from Mansfield pitcher Tyler Stout and Victor was able to score, tying the game once again.
The Destroyers were able to close out the rest of the inning without incurring further damage. But, now with the game tied they had to score in the bottom of the ninth or risk going to extra innings.
Eric Feliz led off the inning for Mansfield. But after battling through six pitches, Feliz ended up recording the Destroyers first out.
Blake Murray followed Feliz to the plate. The first pitch was a called strike. Murray fouled off the second pitch to fall behind 0-2 in the count. Murray let the next pitch go by for a ball. Then, Murray connected with the fourth pitch from Murphy O’Brien to get on base with a single.
The Oilers got Michael Wein to fly out to third for the second out of the inning.
Austin Schmitt stepped up to the plate. With the game on the line, Schmitt made contact on the first pitch, knocking the ball to left field where it fell in for a hit scoring Murray from first to give the Destroyers the walk-off victory.
After the dramatic win, the Destroyers got right back to work Wednesday night in the western division championship series against Niagara. The Destroyers returned home Thursday night for the second game of the best-of-three series.
The scores from these games and any other playoff games will be in next week’s Gazette.