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Patriots rally past defending champs

Tuesday’s 15-inning marathon between Central Alabama and Wallace Community College Selma came down to which team wanted it more.

Judging by the scoreboard and CACC coach Wynn Fletcher, that team wasn’t the defending NJCAA National Champions, as the Patriots (14-22, 3-10 ACCC) outlasted the Trojans (17-14, 10-3 ACCC) 10-9.

WCCS’ Toby King and CACC’s Wilson Adams held the bats in check offensively for much of the way. CACC struck first with an RBI single from Ryan Raspino, and the Patriots responded in kind in the top of the fourth.

Thanks to RBIs from Joe Pradat, Tyler Graham and Tyler Evans, CACC ended up trailing 4-2.

The Trojans recovered to tack on seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to go up 9-4, but the bottom fell out for CACC from there.

“First off, hats off to (the Patriots). They played hard, they came here to make something happen, and they did,” Fletcher said. “But the unraveling started long before the seventh inning.”

The Patriots chipped away at the Trojans’ lead, scoring two runs to get within three of CACC.

In the top of the ninth, two hit batsmen and a walk loaded the bases for the Patriots.

After an RBI groundout from Alex Campbell, Patriots coach Frank Elliot then put speedster Kevin Vaughan in at pitch runner with the intent to go for broke.

“I was just hoping to cut off half of those runs in the next inning. I felt if we could do that, we’d have a shot to tie it up,” Elliot said. “I put in the fastest guy I had left at second, and told him don’t stop at third. They were going to have to get our guy out at home. We were going to take our chances, and it worked for us.”

Pradat then delivered a game-tying two-run double, scoring Vaughan and Bryce Jay.

From that point, the Trojans were locked up at the plate thanks to effective pitching from positional players.

Each team’s threat was snuffed out until the top of the 15th.  After a pitch hit by Kevin Simmons, he eventually advanced to third when Jay reached first on an error. Vaughan reached on a walk to load the bases, and a passed ball allowed Simmons to race home, giving the Patriots the lead.