A year ago, Williamsport shortstop Owen Lukens tore his ACL playing football but was playing baseball again by May. Wednesday at Logue Field, first baseman Steven Moon injured his ankle after landing awkwardly. He did not miss an inning.
The book on 2013 Williamsport is a work in progress but the opening chapter reveals that this team is filled with fighters. That was evident last year and again yesterday against Danville.
Moon hit a fifth-inning, game-tying RBI double, Noah Esposito hit a go-ahead single a batter later and Davey Ludwikowski, Kyle Hoover and Lukens stymied Danville as Williamsport won 4-2. The Millionaires (5-2) scored three runs in their final two at-bats and Sam Bubb went 2 for 3 in just the team's second game in the past three weeks.
Williamsport shortstop Owen Lukens attempts to backhand a ground ball by Danville on Wednesday at Logue Field. The ball went for a hit, but the Millionaires defeated the Ironmen 4-2 for their fifth win of the year. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"There was no doubt I was playing after that (second-inning injury). I would stay in the game no matter what," Moon said. "This says a lot about our team. We stick together. We pull each other together and we make it happen."
"We're scrappers and we want to win every inning," said Lukens, who struck out the side in the seventh. "We want to dig down especially hard and do our best."
Danville (4-4) took a 2-1 fifth-inning lead after Kurtis Mordan doubled and scored on Zack Kozick's fielder's choice. Despite pitcher Mason Fausnaught having retired 10 straight at that point, the lead was short-lived.
Catcher Joey Cassidy started changing the game's complexion just one pitch into the bottom of the fifth, ripping a single into center field. Pinch-runner Sam Engel then stole second and scored on Moon's double. Four pitches later, Moon scored and Williamsport took its first lead when Esposito singled. In the first four innings, Williamsport had two hits, but in just 10 pitches it delivered three and scored twice while seizing control.
"Me and Joey were talking to each other and were saying, 'We've got to get this started,'" Moon said. "We were saying we have to break this open a little bit so we went up there and started just hacking."
"You can't ever give up," Bubb said. "You just keep fighting because you never know what can happen."
Bubb ignited a two-out rally an inning later that produced a valuable insurance run. The second baseman belted a single before moving to second on a wild pitch. Lukens then drove a single into left field and Bubb hustled home, beating the tag by an inch.
Lukens came in to close the game in the seventh and, the way he threw, that two-run lead looked more like a 12-run advantage. The senior sidearmer overpowered Danville, striking out the side on 15 pitches. He ended the game by freezing Kozick with a beautiful curveball on the outside corner.
"I like the closer role a lot," Lukens said. "I just go out there and give everything I have. I feel like I have my best stuff when the pressure is on."
Lukens built off the solid performances Ludwikowski and Hoover delivered. Ludwikowski retired the final eight batters he faced, striking out four in three innings. Hoover struck out three in three innings and stranded runners on first and third to end the fifth inning, something that took on added significance when Williamsport started its comeback.
Ludwikowski, Hoover and Lukens did not walk any and were backed by a strong defense that made no errors. Esposito started the game with a sensational diving catch in right field, robbing Garrett Krum of a leadoff single. It was a pivotal play because Kozick and Brett Berg (3 for 3) followed with singles. Danville took a 1-0 lead on Fausnaught's sacrifice fly, but if not for Esposito's brilliant play the damage could have been worse.
Williamsport tied the game in the bottom of the first when Ian Dinsmore and Bubb hit back-to-back singles. Dinsmore stole home on a designed rundown between first and second. The Millionaires did not deliver another hit until Cassidy's fifth-inning leadoff single but they bunched them together at the right time.
And for a team that endured an 18-day layoff before playing Monday that was a huge step in the right direction.
"I liked the aggressiveness that we played with throughout the game. We need that after a long layoff. It feels good," Bubb said. "It was just a matter of time before we started hitting the ball and now we have to keep the momentum going."
Williamsport plays again today at Shikellamy. It is a refreshing back-to-back sequence for a team that grew tired of being inside and having limited time seeing live pitching. It basically was like starting the season all over again.
If the Millionaires end the season the way they ended yesterday's game, though, they will take it.
"We have a lot of rust from the long layoff," Lukens said. "Wins like this help pick us up."
Danville100 010 0-2 8 0
Williamsport100 021 x-4 7 0
Mason Fausnaught and Brett Berg. Davey Ludwikowski, Kyle Hoover (4), Owen Lukens (7) and Joey Cassidy. W-Hoover, (2-0). L-Fausnaught.
Top Danville hitters: Berg 3-3; Kurtis Mordan 1-3, 2B, R. Top Williamsport hitters: Sam Bubb 2-3, R; Owen Lukens 1-3, RBI; Steven Moon 1-2, 2B, RBI, R; Noah Esposito 1-3, RBI; Ian Dinsmore 1-3, R, SB.
Records: Williamsport 5-2. Danville 4-4.