Westchester's starting lineup, with a eight batters with averages of .300 or better, spent six innings Thursday trying with little success to live up to those numbers against Coastal Conference rival University.
But the mark of a good team is being able to make their hits count, and the Comets did just that, getting three consecutive hits in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally past the Warriors, 5-4, at Westchester.
Mike Hayes, batting .452 entering the game, lined a fastball into the bushes in right field off reliever Javier Mejia to score Al Watson with the winning run. Watson had led off the inning with an infield single.
"I got goose bumps on my arms because of the way we won this game," Westchester Coach Ronald Kasparian said. "They made me look like a good coach."
Jose Flores earned the victory, but it was hardly a pretty one. The Warriors managed to get runners in scoring position in every inning, thanks in part to Flores' wildness (four walks and two wild pitches) and the Comets' sloppy defense (four errors).
However, Flores was almost always able to pitch himself out of trouble and University stranded nine runners.
Rich Rivera was the losing pitcher. He held Westchester's intimidating lineup to four hits--three of them infield hits--through the six innings.
But after Watson beat out an infield single and Jose Martinez followed with a single to left, Rivera was pulled. Mejia came in to face Hayes, and the Westchester first baseman made his first hit of the game count.
"I told Mike right before the inning started that he was going to win the ballgame for us," Kasparian said.
Westchester (16-5, 12-1 in the conference) moves into a first-place tie with University (18-3, 12-1). The Warriors had held the lead outright for two days after beating the Comets, 5-3, at University on Tuesday.
Looking for revenge and trying to avoid giving University a two-game conference lead, Westchester was treating Thursday's game as a must-win situation.
"If they had won this one, they would have pretty much clinched the conference," said Westchester first baseman Tremayne Noles, who scored the Comets' first run after a walk in the second.
It looked as if that would be the case after the Warriors scored twice in the top of the fifth to take a 3-1 lead.
But University's defense broke down with three errors in the bottom half of the inning, and Westchester took advantage for three runs on only two hits. Watson, who was three-for-three with a walk, brought home a run with another infield hit.
University answered with a run in the sixth, tying the score, 4-4. Mejia reached on a Watson error, stole second, went to third on a Hayes error and then stole home on a double steal.
But in the seventh, Watson and Hayes redeemed themselves by combining for the winning run.
"It wasn't the greatest game for us in the field," Kasparian said. "But our kids didn't quit, even after they made mistakes. University doesn't make too many mistakes. They've shut us down twice now. But our kids kept battling back."