BJ Banyon Caps Off Monumental Hopper Comeback
The Paducah Chiefs were in town on Sunday night to take on the Hoptown Hoppers at Colonel Field. Little did we know that the game that would take place between these two teams would be an instant classic.
Garrett Sagro started off on the mound for the Hoppers. The Chiefs got off to a quiet start on the night, and we moved to the bottom of the first rather quickly. BJ Banyon would lead off for the Hoppers, and he hit a single on the first Chiefs pitch of the night. Nico Montes would also secure a single, putting Banyon in scoring position. A wild throw to first in an attempt for a double-play by the Chiefs allowed Banyon to make it home for the first Hoppers run of the night. The game began to fall apart for the Hoppers in the second inning, as batter after batter walked on balls. In fact, five runs were scored for the Chiefs solely off of walks, and then two runs were scored from a two RBI-single. Campbell Cleveland would take over pitching duties in order to halt the bleeding. The Chiefs were now up 7-1 over Hoptown after only two innings. In the bottom of the third the Hoppers loaded the bases, desperately needing to close the gap in order to make this game competitive. However, the opportunity would be wasted as the Hoppers stranded all three base runners. In the fifth inning things didn't get any better for the Hoppers. Paducah tallied three more runs in the fifth to extend their lead to 10-1 after five.
The Hoppers would finally find their groove in the sixth inning. The Chiefs made a pitching change, a decision that may have resulted in the eventual downfall for Paducah. Alex Gonzales started off the inning with a single for the Hoppers. He would soon find himself on third, and Valek Cisneros also threatened on second. Tanner Holliman then hit a two RBI-single, scoring both Gonzales and Cisneros. Arlon Butts then secured a single of his own that landed Holliman on third. Banyon brought Holliman home, but was thrown at at first himself. Finally, the Chiefs fumbled a solid hit by Montes that allowed Butts to secure the final run of the inning. The score now sat at 5-10 in favor of the Chiefs after six innings. The Chiefs continued to struggle in the top of the seventh, and the Hoppers continued to excel. Gonzales hit a double to start off the seventh for the Hoppers, and Kurt Paldino would be hit by a pitch, leaving him on first. Holliman then went yard, scoring all three runners, a moment that I believe was the turning point of the game. Both teams went scoreless in the eighth inning, and we moved to the pivotal final inning of the game.
pc: Mason Price
The Chiefs would score one run in the top of the ninth, extending their lead to 11-8 over the Hoppers. Hoptown would get a chance to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth, and they immediately went to work to do so. The Chiefs made a pitching change, another decision that may have led to what would soon occur. Three straight walks loaded the bases for the Hoppers with no outs on the board. Jojo Cruz batted Riley Garczynski home, but was thrown out at first himself. Zayd Brannigan then hit a two RBI-single that tied the game. Tanner Holliman was on third with only one out for the Hoppers, and BJ Banyon, who lead off for the Hoppers earlier in the day, would step up to the plate. Banyon would hit a single that scored Holliman, and the Hoppers had completed their comeback.
I must say, this was probably the best Hoppers game I have ever watched live. The crowd was the loudest I think I have ever heard as well. It really was a great experience, and showed the resilience of the Hoppers. The Hoppers will play three games away on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then will return home to play the Muhlenberg County Stallions on Friday night.