The Fort Walton Beach Vikings showed a lot of resolve Thursday night coming back from a 6-2 deficit to pull off a 9-8 win over the Washington Wildcats in varsity baseball action at Daniel Bohannon Field in Fort Walton Beach.
“We got gritty … and I think we had some good team at bats,” said Viking Coach Brian McDaniel.
Senior Viking Cam Gagliano had one of those good team at bats in the bottom of the seventh. After fouling off several pitches, Gagliano managed to smack a single to right center. When trying to round second on a bunt put down by Alex Holz, he was obstructed by a Washington Wildcat. The officials awarded Gagliano third base.
With two outs and the Vikings up in the dugout with rally caps shaking, Waylon Steele punched one out to right field to score Gagliano for the win.
“Waylon (Steele) was 0 for 2 with two punch outs and left about six on the base,” McDaniel said. “But then he comes up and helps put up a six spot.
“Then he comes in there and gets 0-2, spreads out and punches the ball to the right side … he just does what he does,” McDaniel said.
Early on the Vikings scored first with Gagliano getting hit by a pitch and eventually scoring on a Wildcat error in the bottom of the first.
In the top of the second, Washington connected for four hits to score three runs. Jaxson Messer led with a bomb over the left field fence. Keith Robbins followed with a double to left and then Tyler Hardeman singled up the middle. Scotty Popp doubled to right for an RBI, the other run scored on an error.
In the third, the Vikings got off to a shaky start with a walk and an error to put the first two batters on base. Up next, Messer hit a shot at third baseman Steele who fielded the ball for an out at third and then fired it to first for a double play. Viking pitcher Tobias Ward-Bouldin struck out the next batter.
Fort Walton picked up another run in the bottom of the third. Gagliano was hit again by a pitch and moved around to second on a throwing error. He later scored on a single to right center by Griffin Wilbur.
In the fourth, the Vikings loaded the bases but failed to get a runner home.
In the top of the fifth, the Wildcats widened the gap with three runs on a pair of hits. Keith Robbins doubled to knock in two of the runs. The other run scored on a passed ball. Washington led 6-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, some of that grit Coach McDaniel talked about showed up. Justice Lucas led with a single to left. The next Viking took one long for an out. Wilbur reached on an error and Hayden Hubbard walked. Adam Anderson walked to force in a run. Up next, Robbie Leach hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Wilbur. Gagliano ripped a double to right for an RBI and Alex Holz walked. With the bases loaded, Steele blasted a shot past the third baseman for a double to clear the bases and an 8-6 advantage.
The lead didn’t last long. Washington evened the score on a couple of Viking errors in the top of the sixth.
In the seventh, Fort Walton held the Wildcats in check and then came in and took care of business with Gagliano scoring on a Steele hit.
“It was just gritty. That’s how we’re going to win games,” McDaniel said.
“We’re going to have to take advantage of other teams mistakes and get it going like that.”
As for the pitching, “I think our pitchers … we pitched around a lot of mistakes,” he said.
Fort Walton’s Ward-Bouldin pitched the first five-and-a-half innings, faced 22 batters, struck out five, walked three and gave up five hits. Karsun Barrett faced seven batters, struck out one, walked one and gave up one hit. Holz finished up facing six batters, struck out two, walked one and gave up no hit.
Gagliano, Steele and Wilbur each had two hits for the Vikings.
The next home game for the Vikings is a 6:30 p.m. contest next Thursday against James Clemens High.