Oneida scored a walk-off win in its series opener against Oakdale on Monday, picking up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The walk-off win was about as anti-climatic as a walk-off win can be. The winning run didn’t come on a home run, a stolen base or even a base hit. Rather, it came on balls. Blaine Shepherd walked to score Peyton Smart after the Indians had loaded the bases, and Oneida walked away with a 7-6 win.
Oneida had led for much of the game before Oakdale came roaring back. The Eagles scored three runs in the sixth inning to tie the game, then scored three more in the seventh to take a 6-3 lead, and the Indians suddenly found themselves down to their final three outs.
But Oneida rallied in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, finally scoring the game-winning run in the ninth.
It was fitting that Shepherd be responsible for the winning run. He had a big game at the plate for the Indians, with three RBIs and two runs scored. Hunter Shoemaker also had a big game, with three RBIs.
McLorne Love scored a pair of runs, while Colten Daugherty, Caden Rector and Smart each scored runs, as well.
Cole Cross got the start and went 6.1 innings, striking out five batters while giving up three earned runs. Rector got credit with the win and was masterful in 2.2 innings, striking out six of the eight batters he faced and allowing just one hit.
Things were going smoothly for Oneida for a while. Shoemaker had an RBI single in the first inning to score Love and give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. Shoemaker was batting again in the third inning when an error by the Oakdale shortstop led to a score by Daugherty, increasing the lead to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Cross had a no-hitter going through four innings, and Oakdale was struggling to find a way to get any base-runners aboard.
The no-hitter ended in the fifth, when Oakdale turned in its first hit of the night. But three consecutive outs ended the inning with no harm done, and Oneida increased its lead to 3-0 in the bottom half of the inning when Shepherd scored on a wild pitch with two outs.
Suddenly, though, Oakdale went to work. The Eagles scored three runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game. Then they scored three more in the top of the seventh to take a 6-3 lead, and the Indians’ five-game district winning streak appeared to be in serious jeopardy.
But Oneida was not going to go quietly. Oakdale appeared to get the bottom of the seventh off to a good start with a strikeout, but Rector reached base on a dropped third strike, and that’s all the Indians needed to spark a rally. Love walked to bring the tying run to the plate with one out. Still, Oneida appeared to be in trouble when Oakdale recorded a strikeout to move to within one out of ending the game.
But after two strikes, Shepherd smacked a two-run double into right field, and the tying run was in scoring position. The Indians tied the game when Shoemaker hit an RBI double to center field to score Shepherd. Oakdale avoided a loss — temporarily, as it turned out — by recording the third out of the inning.
Oakdale got a potential winning run in scoring position in the top of the eighth. After two strikeouts to start the inning, the Eagles came up with a single and then a walk, and had men on first and second. But Rector recorded another strikeout to end the inning.
Oneida’s batters sat down in order in the bottom of the eighth to force a ninth inning. There, Rector recorded two more strikeouts and retired three in a row before Oneida finally won the game.
Disaster occurred for the Eagles in the bottom of the ninth. First Smart walked. Then Love was hit by a pitch. And Daugherty walked. The Indians had the bases loaded, with still no outs.
Things didn’t get any better for Oakdale when Shepherd walked to the plate and quickly found himself ahead in the count, 3-0. Needing to avoid a fourth ball and an instant loss, Oakdale was able to draw the count full after a strike and a series of foul balls. But then Shepherd took ball four for the walk and the instant win, as the Indians won their sixth straight game.
Oneida will look for a sweep on Tuesday in Oakdale.