Hagen Wilkey knew what was coming and made the most of it, crushing a 3-2 fastball to break open a tight game and lead Red Bank to a 7-2 baseball victory over District 6-AA rival Central on Monday.
With the Lions clinging to a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh, Wilkey fouled off a couple of pitches and worked the count full.
"With a 3-2 and two runners on, I just knew he'd throw a fastball," the junior left fielder said.
That fastball was sent back up the middle and was still climbing as it rocketed over the center-field fence. The three-run shot was a nail in the coffin for the host Purple Pounders, who have fallen two games behind in what figures to be a three-time title race involving them, the Lions and East Hamilton.
Starter Patrick McCoon worked into the third inning to pick up the win.
"He was all over the place at times, but he gutted it out and got us to Burney [Bryant Burnette) to close," said Trey Hicks, the Lions' rookie coach who now stands 2-0 in his young career.
Central grabbed the early lead when Dominique Dawson delivered the first of his two hits to score Jonathan Rievely in the bottom of the second. Red Bank took the lead, though, in the top of the third with the aid of two Central errors.
Ryan Potter and Taylor Martin reached on errors with Jared Martin singling in between. Hunter Holmes walked and, after a fielder's choice scored the first run, Burnette rapped a two-run single to left center.
Central countered in the bottom of the third when Rievely was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Pounders left the bases loaded in the first and third innings, leaving starting pitcher Brannon Davis with a four-hit loss.
"We didn't give him a lot of support," Pounders coach Glen Carter said. "We kicked it around and we left several on base. We have to figure out a way to get those guys in, but nobody has stepped up yet wanting to get that two-out hit you have to have."
The Lions picked up a run on Taylor Martin's double and another Pounders error before Wikey's three-run shot put the game out of reach.
"Our games with Central in the recent past have been close ones - one- or two-run games - and to get a 2-0 district lead is big for us," Hicks said. "You feel like you are more in control of your own destiny. Davis threw well, but we got to him in that one inning. Our kids stepped up where in the past they might not have pulled it out."