Panther Valley manager Chris West was forced to present his players with one true challenge after his team struggled early on against the Franklin Township Red Sox on Tuesday .
After speaking briefly to them prior to their fourth inning at-bats, the Black Diamonds responded immediately to West's request.
With his team sitting at 10-2 on the year and the Red Sox in the basement with one victory, West watched his Black Diamonds turned a upset in the making into added proof on why the Black Diamonds are a "championship caliber" team as the playoffs loom close with a 9-8 come-from-behind victory.
"We have to start realizing the potential is out there for us to get home field advantage in the playoffs, which is critical and we weren't playing like a team that deserves home field advantage (early in the game)," said West, of his team, who sit's a game behind Hazleton in the division. "We weren't playing like a championship-caliber team.
"And, I said to them in that inning, 'If you want to play like a champion, you have to win games like this. Down four runs, I put the challenge out to them - get one run at a time, battle back and due what you need to do, execute, hussle and leave it all out on the field. Leave no doubt.'"
After four different lead changes, the Red Sox were able to get the best of Black Diamond pitching in the top of the fourth with four runs to take an 8-4 lead. Jake Stauffer keyed it with a two-run single, while Jayden Hensley chipped in with an RBI-single.
In the bottom half of the fourth, West spoke briefly to his Black Diamonds in a team huddle. Soon enough, the hosts handled every bit of the adversity and chipped away at the Red Sox's lead.
A Brandon Heffelfinger sacrifice fly and a Josh Faenza RBI-single pulled the Black Diamonds closer in that inning. In the fifth inning, two Red Sox miscues and a Mike Luckenbill RBI single tied the game up at 8-8.
It was in the sixth inning, however, when the Black Diamonds showed another true sign of a winner by listening to West once again.
Zach King started things off with a double and then moved to third on another Heffelfinger sacrifice bunt. After an out and a Jeff Corby walk, Joe Trimmel poked a dribbler down the third-base line and beat it out for a hit. In the process, King crossed home plate with what turned out to be the game-winning run.
"We preach to our kids all the time - 'As soon as the ball is hit, run it out. Hussle everything out. You never know what's going to happen. You put the ball in play, you give yourself a chance to make something happen," stressed West. "That's exactly what happened. Zach King getting a double out of a misplayed ball in the outfield and then it happened with Joey Trimmel beating out that throw.
"If you give a 100-percent at all times, you never know what can happen. Hussle is what got us that win."
While the bats compiled the necessary runs to win the game, the Black Diamonds' relief pitcher Dave Vidzicki provided the firepower on the mound the final three innings. After the Red Sox collected six hits and 10 walks off in the first four innings, Vidzicki silenced their bats the rest of the way.
He only allowed a walk to Alex Storm, which was the first batter he faced in the fifth and watched Matt Schaeffer reach on a fielder's choice and Storm later reach on a throwing miscue.
"He did his job. He did what he had to do," Franklin Township manager Spike Long said. "He came in and just held us and the bats got cold in a hurry. Just a little bit of a change through us off. They were getting in a rhythm with the other two pitchers and then they brought this guy in. It was a different pace. A whole different kind of speed. That's what threw them off synch.
"One thing I told the kids when we came up here tonight was 'We had to give them a game.' We certainly did give them a game. Unfortunately tonight, it just didn't work in our favor."
Red Sox 130 400 0 - 8 6 6
Black Diamonds 310 221 x - 9 9 4
David, Storm (5) and Farole; Ogozalek, King (2), Vidzicki (5) and Marouchoc. W - Vidzicki. L - Storm.