Quakers Overcome a Big Deficit to Win Season Opener

We are part of The Trust Project
Greeley’s Brandon Neeck pitches in relief
during Saturday’s 9-8 win.

No, there really aren’t any carnival attractions located anywhere on Horace Greeley High School’s sprawling campus. But the Quaker baseball team still managed to take its fans on quite a roller coaster ride on Saturday afternoon.

Playing in their much-delayed season opener, the Quakers found themselves trailing Carmel 6-0 after just an inning and a half. But they rallied to eventually catch up, then take the lead, only to squander it one out from victory before finally prevailing with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“Yeah, it was very cardiac out here today,” said Quakers coach Anthony Marino, moments after watching senior outfielder Jake Greenberg lace an RBI single to right that plated James McGetrick with the winning run in a thrilling 9-8 victory over the visiting Rams on a sunny, but cold and blustery, spring day.

“It was a sloppy beginning,” conceded Marino. “It was indicative of a team that just came out of the gym. This was our first time on our field, and I wasn’t even sure we were gonna get this game in today because of the condition of it yesterday. A lot of us felt like we’d never play a game this year.”

After half a dozen postponements due to inclement weather, the Quakers finally took the field on Saturday and fell behind very quickly. Greeley starting pitcher Jack Dollinger walked leadoff batter Chris Epp, then surrendered a single to right to Bobby Martin. Epp scored on a fielder’s choice grounder to third and Martin came home on a single to left by AJ Gonzalez.

Even though Dollinger ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, he ran into even more trouble in the second as Carmel reached him for four hits and scored another four runs, with two of them actually coming on a Tyler Parshley bunt in front of the plate. By the time the Quakers came to bat for the second time, they were already behind by six runs.

But a pair of walks helped Greeley load the bases in the bottom of the second with no outs and the Quakers scored their first run of the season when Greenberg grounded out to short. Nate Jbara followed with a ground ball to second that was misplayed, allowing two more runs to score, cutting the deficit to 6-3. Jbara, though, soon wound up getting thrown out at the plate on a single to right by Keith Corso.

Dollinger breezed through the top of the third, collecting his fourth and fifth strikeouts. In the bottom of the inning, the Quakers got a little closer as Matt Jabloner led off with a single, was bunted to second by Eli Thaler and scored on Greenberg’s double down the right-field line.

Greeley added an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, moving to within 6-5. But the inning ended with the Quakers running themselves into a double play that began with McGetrick getting cut down at the plate on Mark Gadaleta’s grounder to second base.

Thaler, who had been summoned to relieve Dollinger with two outs in the fifth, stranded a runner at third in the top of the sixth by getting Martin on a called third strike. The Quakers threatened again in the bottom of the inning as they quickly loaded the bases, again with no outs, thanks to a pair of walks and a Ram error.

Facing relief pitcher Matt Vitro, Dan Hamerchlag tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center field. Brandon Neeck followed by blasting a 3-2 pitch to the gap in right-center field for a two-run double that gave the Quakers an 8-6 lead.

Neeck, the ace of the Quakers’ staff, came on to pitch the seventh and protect the two-run lead. He walked his first two batters and threw a wild pitch that moved both runners up a base. He then struck out Anthony Melchione and retired Antonio Cretera on a bloop to second base. But another walk loaded the bases and then Kyle Schilling hit a grounder toward second that forced Corso to make an off-balance throw. The ball wound up in the dirt, eluding Gadaleta at first as two runs scored to tie the game.

Neeck ended the inning with a strikeout, setting the stage for the Quakers to win the game in the bottom of the seventh. McGetrick led off with a single to left and Gadaleta followed with a sacrifice bunt. Greenberg fell behind 0-2 in the count, but then smacked his winning hit to right field, scoring McGetrick from second and sending giddy teammates racing onto the field to congratulate him.

“We were sloppy early,” said Marino. “We tightened it up. We still made a couple of mistakes on the bases and in the field. We got a great pitching performance in relief and we got timely hits.”

With only one starter (Neeck) from last season returning to the lineup this year, Marino knows his team has a lot of questions to answer. But he thinks the comeback win over the Rams was a good first step.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, “it’s easy for a team to lay down and die. And they did not. So I take from that there’s fight in this team. There’s emotion. So that’s good to see because you can do a lot more with desire than you can with talent a lot of times.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.