CPL: Morton homer lifts HiToms in extra innings
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, High Point-Thomasville skipper Austin Love received a text from Bradley Morton. The Appalachian State product was battling a stomach bug and let his coach know he might not be at the game.
He made it. The club is thrilled he did.
In the bottom of the 10th in a tie with Forest City, Morton put good wood on the second pitch he saw, sending a shot over the left field wall to propel the HiToms to a 5-4, walk-off victory.
“I feel a lot better now,” said Morton. “It is a great feeling and walk-offs are always exciting. It was a curveball and I honestly thought he (Owls' pitcher Steven Pallares) was going to come with a fastball. He hung it and I just got my arms extended and it just traveled out of here. I honestly did not think it was going out. But it snuck its way outta here.”
Long before the heroic home run from Morton, the focus was on the pitching performance of Forest City's Taylor Thurber. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, before Pete Guy broke it up with a sharp single up the middle. With the no-no wiped away, the HiToms began to hit with Glen Batson doubling to left to score pinch runner Des Roberts. A grounder to first moved up Batson to third. He scrambled home on a wild pitch that appeared to slip out of reliever Mitch Warner's hands. That temporarily tied the score until Forest City had a pair of singles to regain a 4-3 lead.
Down to its final two outs in the ninth, High Point-Thomasville got a single from Tripp Dunn to provide hope. An error on a ground ball that was suitable for a double play put the tying run in scoring position. A strikeout put two outs on the board and left the game in Cody Brittain's hands. On a 3-2 pitch with the runners moving, Brittain looped a single into right field to score pinch runner Jordan Simons.
The HiToms could not get the winning run in from third, but they had done just enough to force free baseball. The Owls were retired in order to set up the thrilling conclusion by Morton, who has struggled recently with his hitting. Before the home run he was 0-for-4 on the night.
“I told myself to just stay positive and keep your head in the game,” he said. “If you come up in a big situation you need to come through for your team. That is what I did.”
Winners in four of the last five games, the HiToms are getting themselves back into the playoff picture at 20-25. There is a dogfight in the West Division for the final playoff spot. Whether they make it in or not, Love is glad to see the club playing better baseball as of late.
“It is almost like we've had some addition by subtraction,” said Love. “As we've gotten down to a smaller number the guys have come together a little bit more and know their roles a little better. We are just really having fun. It is like, 'hey, we are either going to win or going to lose.' We are just pulling for each other and more than anything we are believing in each other.”
Notes: The Owls struggled defensively committing five errors on the night … Forest City's Devin Wenzel and Zach Cerbo were the only two player to have multiple hits … Phil Maton (1-1) picked up the win in relief.