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With his no-out, RBI walk-off home run, Ryan Alford put the cap on Cedar Key's thrilling 7-6 comeback win against district visitors Meadowbrook. The Sharks had beaten the Mustangs 14-4 in the first week of the season and came out very confident, but a four-inning standoff and opportunistic scoring by Meadowbrook shook their poise.
After four scoreless innings, Meadowbrook's Charlie Witulski got on with a walk and was moved over by Zach Bailey's double to right. Tyler Quistad also got on with a walk, and both he and Bailey came home. Cedar Key put the brakes on a potential big inning when Shawna Fenton scooped a low throw to first to put out Christian Ryan. Outs two and three followed without further bloodletting.
That 3-0 threat was all the Sharks need to shake out their bats. Aaron Esposito lined a single up the middle and stole around, and Evan Lyons followed him with a walk. David Bishop also singled up the gut, driving in Esposito to put Cedar Key on the board.
Lyons scored on an error and Ian McNulty came to the plate. As McNulty waited out a walk, Bishop, from third, took an extra-long lead and forced a rundown between third and home. When Meadowbrook's catcher overthrew third, Bishop scored. McNulty then took his base, stole around, and came home on a passed ball, putting the wide-awake Sharks up 4-3.
Meadowbrook kept it up in the sixth, as Witulski and Bailey scored again, allowing the Mustangs to retake the lead.
As Cedar Key found themselves down once again, Fenton singled to center, then stole second. Esposito walked and Lyons also singled. With the bases loaded, Bishop walked and Fenton came home, tying the game at 5.
The Mustangs kept looking for opportunities, as leadoff hitter Anthony Smith was plunked by Sharks' pitcher Bishop and went to first. He was driven in by Stephen McGovern for Meadowbrook's last lead.
Starting on the mound, Bishop had 11 strikeouts, but hit three batters and left the game after six and two-thirds innings, relieved on the hill by Esposito.
Esposito inherited a scoreboard at 6-5 in favor of Meadowbrook, and kept the ball down for an infield putout, the third out in the top of the seventh, holding off the Mustangs and allowing his team an opportunity to come back at the end.
Come back they did, as Jacob Crosby led off the inning with a single to left. With Crosby perched at first, Alford then came to the plate. He had already chopped two singles up the middle, each time getting a little more of Christian Ryan's pitch.
"I was getting used to his timing, and I was ready that time," Alford said afterward.
He hit a monster shot to center that the center fielder watched over the fence, and first Crosby, then he, trotted home to a crowd at the plate.
Sharks' head coach Joe Bishop was delighted with the composure his team showed in their recovery.
"They pulled it together tonight," he said. "The guys have really been supporting one another and playing together."
Bishop said the addition of new first base coach Luis Orama has been helpful.
"He's really working out well," he noted.
He added that he had awarded game balls to Alford and Fenton for their timely hitting.
"Ryan's our game MVP," he said. "Shawna hit real well too."
Cedar Key improves to 4-8 on the season, and will play their next home game against St. John Lutheran on April 3 at 5 p.m.