Tigers Walk Off in Eight for Wild Win Over Bobcats


If style points were a thing, the Centralia baseball team would have been in deep trouble in their home opener against Aberdeen on Tuesday. But the only column that matters at the end of the day is the run column, and the Tigers got just enough there to walk off 14-13 winners over the Bobcats at Wheeler Field in eight innings. 

“It’s a win, it’s a positive, and we move forward,” new coach Jake LeDuc said, describing the three-hour game the same way a bloop over the second baseman’s head can be described as a lined shot up the middle in the book.

For all the twists and turns the night had, it came down to the bottom of the eighth, with the game tied up at 13-13. Roberto Rosales-Norris led the frame off with a pop-up straight in the air. It should have been a can of corn, but as Centralia had learned the hard way three separate times in the top half of the inning, there was no such thing with the lights at Wheeler being as they are. The Tigers managed to catch two of theirs, but the Bobcats could come down with Rosales-Norris’ and the winning run was in scoring position.

After a single moved him up and Aberdeen intentionally walked the bases loaded, Moshie Eport-Tartios came through, driving a ball deep enough to score Rosales-Norris on a sacrifice.

Eport-Tartios finished the night 2 for 4 with a walk, two doubles, and three RBIs. But if anything, the ending was a bounceback for him, after the senior saw everything collapse around him in one disastrous frame.

Centralia broke out to a 13-4 lead off the back of two huge innings in the fourth and fifth, getting the run-rule run to third base before the Bobcats finally got out of the inning. Brady Sprague had dealt two shutout innings of relief already, but on 20 pitches, LeDuc decided to pull him early so he’d be available to throw again Wednesday.

Eport-Tartios came to the hill and got an immediate first out, but after a walk and two hits brought a run home, an error behind him gave the Bobcats true life, and the hit parade began. The senior left with seven runs to his name, but only one was earned. 

Marcus Miller came in as the emergency stop-man, but immediately gave up a single and a game-tying home run, and the game had flipped completely on its head.

But from there, the Tigers put their foot down. Miller put up two more scoreless innings — thanks in large part to catcher Gabe Seymour throwing a runner out at third — without allowing much of any weak contact. He ended up earning the win, doing a solid job of killing the Bobcats’ momentum and resetting the balance in the later innings.

“You look at him, and I think guys discount him, but he’s a bulldog,” LeDuc said. “He wants the ball. I don’t know if we’ve got a guy that competes harder pitch after pitch after pitch.”

Miller nearly started a rally in the bottom of the seventh, getting hit by a pitch to lead things off — the eighth hit batter of the game for the Tigers — but was doubled off first after the Bobcats snagged a Tucker Weaver liner. 

By then, darkness had fallen completely at Borst Park, and any time a ball got above the Wheeler Field lights, it just about disappeared until it came back down. It nearly got Carlos Vallejo on a pop-up to start the top of the eighth, it prolonged the frame on a ball to shallow center field that Seth Aitken never saw, and it nearly gave the Bobcats the lead on another ball to center, that Aitken saw just in time to snag at his shoe tops.

“You know what, the lights played into things for both of us,” LeDuc said. “The lights are the lights, it is what it is.”

The Tigers will go for the sweep in Aberdeen on Tuesday, with Sprague set to start.