Gallagher's home run caps Eagles' thrilling rally
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 12, 2010 1:47 PM
Wayne Christian got a big boost from senior Steven Gallagher on Tuesday.
The team's top pitcher delivered five solid innings of relief on the mound and played his role as the clean-up hitter to perfection.
Gallagher delivered a game-ending, three-RBI walk-off home run that pushed the Eagles past Trinity-Durham, 10-8, in quarterfinal-round action of the 2010 N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A baseball playoffs.
Wayne Christian (13-9 overall) earned its first-ever trip to the final four and opposes either two-time defending state champion Lawrence Academy or Faith Christian-Rocky Mount on Friday. Game time is 1 p.m. at Fleming Stadium in Wilson.
All Gallagher could do was smile.
"It was my last game on this field and I wanted to make the most of it," said Gallagher. "I worked it to a full count and I didn't want to walk."
Trailing 8-7 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the Eagles huddled and listened to head coach Greg Johnson as he told his team to be aggressive and stay focused.
Dylan Smith ignited the rally with a lead-off single and Chase Darden followed with a bunt that also went for a base hit. Gallagher worked the count until the payoff pitch and then exploded with a thunderous blast that easily cleared the left field wall.
Gallagher's teammates mobbed him at home plate and a wild celebration ensued.
"We have been doing this all season," Johnson said. "We get behind and we play our way back, or we get a lead and we let the other team back in it. A lot of our games have been exciting to the very end."
For much of the night it appeared as though the Eagles' playoff quest would come to an abrupt end.
Down by five runs in the bottom of the fifth, Wayne Christian began its comeback.
Ryan Cooke singled, Travis Thomas reached on an error and Smith belted a two-run double. Darden followed with an RBI double of his own and later scored on a wild pitch. The four-run outburst made the score 8-7 in the Lions' favor and set up Gallagher's seventh-inning heroics.
"Our guys battled and they never hung their heads," said Johnson. "I am so proud of the effort that they gave and their willingness to stick it out until the very end."