Courtesy runner Banks Cromer raced home with the winning run on an error in the bottom of the 13th inning to give A.C. Flora a 10-9 win against Airport in the first game of the Class 3A state baseball championship series.
The defending champion Falcons (25-6) can wrap up another championship with a Game 2 win Saturday at Airport.
A.C. Flora trailed 9-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, but rallied for four runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh to force extra innings. Donald Gillespie hit a two-run home run and Austin Beskid followed with a solo shot in the seventh to pull the Falcons within 9-8. But it was Davis Funderburk’s soft, two-out single to center field that scored Connor Desmond with the equalizer.
“Tonight was a testament to our players’ resolve,” said Flora coach Andy Hallett. “We never give in until there are 21 outs. There seems to be some magic in the air when we play at Falcon Field.”
The seven-inning slugfest turned into a pitching duel between Flora’s Matt Wallace and Airport’s Forrest Arnold. Both relievers began in the eighth inning and traded zeros until the bottom of the 13th.
Wallace got things going for the Falcons with a leadoff double to right field — his first hit of the game. Arnold then struck out the next two Falcons hitters. Everett Eynon worked a full count on the Eagles’ right-hander and hit a ground ball that the Airport defense could not convert into an inning-ending, game-extending out.
Wallace allowed two hits in his six-inning stint, striking out seven. He retired the final 10 batters he faced.
“I never thought I’d have to go this long,” said the senior right-hander. “I figured maybe three would be the limit. But we all do what we have to do to get it done. We never stop until the umpire tells us it’s over.”
Flora finished with 22 hits. Jake Wilson, Eynon, Beskid and Funderburk had three hits apiece. All nine hitters in the ACF lineup had at least one safety.
Casey Parker had three hits, scored three runs and drove in one for Airport (26-5).
The Eagles forced the game into extra innings when freshman left-fielder Zach Feaster threw out the would-be winning run at the plate for the final out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I hadn’t seen Airport at all this season, and I was highly impressed with what I saw tonight,” said Hallett.