Every little boy who has picked up a bat and ball in his backyard has done a walk-through on the sequence.
Two outs, bottom of the ninth. Championship on the line. Your team is one hit away from winning it all.
Waynesboro Generals shortstop Mike Marcinko stepped into the batters box Wednesday night at Kate Collins Field with that very scenario in front of him. Tie ballgame, runner on third, two outs, bottom of the ninth, championship there for the taking.
The first pitch from reliever Jacob Anthony was a ball. With the count in his favor 1-0, the rising junior at Shippensburg University was just looking for something up in the zone to drive. The pitch that Anthony threw 1-0 is lost to Marcinko’s memory. It looked like a fastball up and in, but all that mattered to Marcinko was that it was up.
“Honestly, I was just up there swinging. I saw a pitch up, and I was ending that game,” said Marcinko, who ripped the ball to deep left, and was the ball landed safely on the outfield grass, allowing Dan Neff to score the championship-clinching run, Marcinko rounded first base and awaited the hordes in the form of his teammates.
“As soon as I made contact, I knew it was over,” Marcinko said. “When I was rounding first, I saw the whole team coming at me. What an unbelievable experience that was. The perfect ending.”
Generals coach D.J. King had to talk Marcinko through that rather imperfect beginning to the game.
“Those two errors, they hurt me in the first inning, and Coach, he rallied me,” Marcinko said.
“I went to the mound, and Cinko had kicked a ball, and I could see him beating himself up,” said King, who had a premonition that Marcinko was going to do something special in the ninth.
“I knew if it was around the zone, he was going to find the barrel,” King said.
Not unnoticed was that Marcinko also made perhaps the two biggest defensive plays of the season later in the clincher, throwing out Steve Kerr at home with no outs in the eighth and making a nice running grab-and-throw with runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the ninth.
“If there’s ever a stronger-willed, clearer-headed guy on the field, that’s Mike Marcinko,” King said.
For Marcinko, the championship is a capper to a summer that he will never forget.
“This whole organization, from top to bottom, unreal. Unreal experience. I’ll never forget this coaching staff. They definitely made me a better baseball player. I thank them for that,” Marcinko said. “This is probably the closest summer team I’ve ever been a part of. We had community outreach, we did everything together, close-knit group. I’m going to miss these guys.”
Before he could think about missing the guys, he had to work his way from under that massive dogpile between first and second.
“Well, you don’t have any oxygen, so it hurts. It’s the worst and best feeling all wrapped in one. And I would do it every day if I could,” Marcinko said.
What a way to end it.
“I’ll never forget this. I’ll never forget the town of Waynesboro, my host family, this coaching staff. It’s an unbelievable experience,” Marcinko said.
– Column by Chris Graham