Axel Johnson Delivers Walk-Off Single to Give Railroaders 7-6 Win
The Cleburne Railroaders had a five-run lead over the Salina Stockade heading into the top of the eighth inning Thursday night, only to watch that lead evaporate and the Stockade get the lead against Cleburne closer Winston Abreu. It looked like the Railroaders were about to suffer a crushing defeat, but Cleburne mounted their own rally against the opposing closer, and Axel Johnson delivered the big hit, a two run, walk-off single that gave the home team the 7-6 victory.
For the first three innings, Cleburne starter Patrick Mincey and Salina starter Brian Smith kept this a scoreless tie, as both starters looked in complete command. However, in the bottom of the fourth Cleburne would finally take the lead.
Nick Van Stratten walked to start the inning and moved to second on a base hit by Geraldo Valentin. Next up was Pichi Balet who grounded out, but Van Stratten scored to give the Railroaders a one run lead.
In the fifth, the lead became two. KC Huth started the inning with a double and moved to third on a ground out. A ground out by Alex Polston brought home Huth to give the Railroaders a 2-0 lead.
Smith had pitched quite well, but in the seventh things unraveled for him. Huth started the inning with a single and advanced second after Hunter Courson drew a walk. Polston laid down a perfect sacrifice to move both runners into scoring position before Maikol Gonzalez walked to load the bases. Smith came out and was replaced by Dillon Sunnafrank, who retired the second batter of the inning. However, a walk to Valentin brought home Huth and Balet followed with a base hit that scored both Gonzalez and Courson to make it 5-0.
That was plenty enough support for Mincey, who cruised through his seven innings of work. The right-hander allowed just 6-hits while striking out three, and left believing he was about to win his seventh game of the season.
However, the bullpen was unable to hold the lead. In the eighth, Carlos Misell came on for Mincey and retired the first batter of the frame, but Roche Woodard delivered a base hit to get the rally started. Jordan Callouet followed by drawing a walk before Jonathan Moroney singled to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Cody Coffman brought in Woodard to get Salina on the board. After Jesse Baker reached on an error, Misell was replaced by Casey Upperman who finally closed out the inning, but not before giving up a base hit to Jimmy Heck that scored both Callouet and Moroney to make this a two-run game.
In the ninth, the Railroaders turned to closer Winston Abreu, but he found himself in trouble right off. After giving of a base hit to Logan Trowbridge to start the inning, a fielder’s choice put Scott Stetson at first. Woodard walked to put two on. With to down, Moroney singled to score both runners and tie the game. Moroney reached second on the throw home and moved to third on a wild pitch. He then scored on a second wild pitch to give Salina their first lead of the game.
It was an incredible turnaround, and looked like it was going to give the Stockade their biggest comeback victory of the season, however closer Tyler Herr was unable to preserve the victory. After walking Gonzalez to start the frame, Herr then made an error when Van Stratten attempted to move the runner over on a sacrifice, allowing Gonzalez to reach third. With runners at the corners, the Salina reliever was able to retire the next two batters. Van Stratten then stole second setting up the dramatic conclusion to the game. Axel Johnson came to the plate and worked the count to 2-2 before lining a base hit into center field that brought home both runners for the victory.
Axel Johnson finished the evening 2-5 with 2-runs driven in. Pichi Balet plated 3 for Cleburne. KC Huth, Maikol Gonzalez, and Nick Van Stratten each scored 2-runs. Roche Woodard was perfect at the plate for Salina, going 4-4 with 2-runs scored. Jonathan Moroney was 3-5 with 2-runs and 2-RBI.
By Robert Pannier