San Antonio Titans manager West Warren sat on a folding chair in front of his dugout, staying calm outwardly in the ninth inning. His gut had to churn as he died the slow death of a coach watching his closer melt down.
The guy who did it for him all season, helping the Titans to the NBC World Series for the first time since 2007, couldn’t get his curveball over. Even worse, Bryce Davis kept hitting batters with it, four in all. Warren saw sticking with him as his only choice and one he would make again. With that decision, the Titans gave up a one-run lead and lost 9-7 to Seattle on Friday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
“We went with what got us here,” Warren said. “Bryce Davis, he’s done a fantastic job for us all summer. Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. He throws a real flat curveball. It wasn’t breaking into the zone. It was breaking into their hip.”
Seattle, NBC runner-up in 2008, 2010 and 2012, trailed 6-3 after six innings and 6-5 entering the ninth. Davis, a 6-foot, 165-pound right-hander from Saint Edward’s (Texas) University, hit No. 2 hitter Brian Corless in the side with a 1-2 pitch. A bunt moved Corless to second base and then things unraveled for Davis. He hit Erik Peterson in the arm with a 2-2 pitch. His 1-2 pitch hit Kyle Sutherland in the foot to load the bases.
Warren went to the mound. He asked Davis if he wanted to keep pitching.
“He did, and that’s the guts of that kid,” Warren said. “That’s why he was out there. We were hoping for a ground ball.”
Instead, Davis hit Kyle Boe in the hip to force in the tying run. Warren pulled him. Davis wants the ball again soon with a lead to protect.
“No excuses,” Davis said. “That’s part of the game. I’ve definitely got to prove I can still throw effectively.”
Meanwhile, the Studs watched the inning roll in their favor, waiting for a chance to swing the bat. Reliever Matt Harrell gave up a bases-loaded triple to Connor Savage, who drove a fastball to the left-field gap. Seattle went up 9-6, courtesy of four runs scored on four hit batsmen (Harrell later plunked another) and a triple.
“You’ve got to say it’s destiny,” Savage said. “Something went right for us. I’m glad I got a shot.”
The Titans scored a run in the ninth and put two runners on, forcing the Studs to go to their bullpen. Ricky Holm retired Mike Warren on a foul ball to end the threat.
The Titans took a 6-3 lead with four runs in the fifth inning. Seattle gave them a push with their own stretch of shaky baseball. Studs starter Ross Humes hit two batters and gave up two one-out singles. Jesse Baker’s single to right drove in two runs for a 4-3 lead. Tony Ramirez lofted a high pop fly to shallow left that the infielders ignored. Savage, playing in left, couldn’t come in quickly enough to make the catch and another run score. Warren followed with a single to center to drive in his second run of the game.
Then the Studs went to NBC veteran Taylor Thompson, a side-arming right-hander who cooled off the Titans. He held them scorless for 3 1/3 innings.
“Any time he comes in, we know if there’s a rally going on with the other team, it’s pretty much going to stop,” Savage said.
The Studs are also NBC veterans and they know a successful run probably needs at least one improbable win. They got theirs out of the way on Friday.
“I don’t know if I believe in destiny, but I think a win like this can help us down the road with confidence and knowing we can come back,” Savage said.