The Fort Walton Beach Vikings pitched it well enough Thursday night to put a 5-4 win in the books over the visiting Arnold Marlins of Panama City Beach.
“We made it interesting there at the end,” said Fort Walton Coach Brian McDaniel.
Up 5-3 going into the top of the seventh, Viking pitcher Karsun Barrett struck out the first two batters, but then walked three. Arnold's Will Collins singled to bring in a run. With the bases still loaded, Arnold hit one deep to left field with Fort Walton’s Calob Peters making the catch to secure the win.
Nevertheless, McDaniel said pitching was what got them through Thursday’s game.
“We go out and give up four hits in the first inning,” he said with Arnold putting up three runs.
“Gag (Cameron Gagliano, who started on the hill for Fort Walton) hasn’t got his best stuff, but he keeps grinding and I ask him to get me through the fifth and he gets me through the fifth,” McDaniel said.
Gagliano gave up five hits, four coming in the first, and struck out six across five innings.
At that point, coach handed the ball over to Barrett.
“When he gets out there on the mound … it gets emotional for me,” McDaniel said, noting Barrett has fought his way back from surgery.
“To know what he’s come through to get out there on that mound … he’s just a competitor and he gets after it.
“This group is coming together really well. And I’m real pleased with the timely hitting,” McDaniel said.
After the Vikings gave up four hits and three runs in the first inning to Arnold, they battled back putting two on the board in the bottom half on a double up the middle from Peters.
Fort Walton didn’t take the lead until the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Barrett singled to right center to bring in two runs.
In the sixth, Fort Walton picked up an insurance run with sophomore Yan Rivera-Fernandez ripping a single down the right field line to drive in Marcus Riley, who was pinch running for Hayden Hubbard who had originally walked to get on base.
In the seventh, Arnold scored one before the Vikings shut them down for the win.
“We’re not knocking the cover off the ball by no means, but we’re getting better," McDaniel said, "and we’re playing with emotion."