On a day nothing was automatic -- not a groundball, not a popup, not a throw, not a catch -- this surely was.
When Central High cleanup hitter Jeremy Clark, with two on, two outs and his team down by a run to top-ranked Clovis West in the seventh, made loud contact and rocketed a ball toward the pine trees Friday at Stan Bledsoe Field, it had to be a home run.
This baby park just doesn't hold such blows, and this ball would only have to travel 331 feet to left field to clear the wall and give the Grizzlies a two-run lead in the Tri-River Athletic Conference game.
So left fielder Nick McAllaster thought the obvious: "Home run. Right off the bat, I thought the ball was gone."
With Central fans on their feet, the junior retreated to the warning track: "I could feel the gravel in my cleats, so I knew I was there."
He reached up, caught the ball, slammed into the wall, and that was it: Clovis West 9, Central 8.
"We'll take it," said Golden Eagles coach Kevin Patrick, whose 19-2 team -- which is fourth-ranked in the state -- escaped on a day it made six errors.
Then, again, down 8-5, they won it with a four-run sixth, including a two-run, two-out dropped infield popup for the 9-8 lead.
Further, three of the runners who scored in the inning reached on two hit-by-pitches and a walk.
"It was one of those days where everybody had a tough time playing catch," said Patrick, whose team improved to 6-1 after entering the day tied with Clovis East atop the standings. "There are no gimmies in this league, that's what makes it fun; it makes you compete every time out."
And No. 9 Central (13-7, 2-5) did just that -- three days after losing at home 14-6 to Clovis West and a month after losing 19-4 at Bledsoe Field to the Eagles.
"Just can't get over the hump," Grizzlies coach Brad Fontes said. "But our kids played their hearts out, and that's all you can ask as a coach."
A week after battering then-No.1 Buchanan and ace Seth Moranda 12-1, Central led Clovis West and ace Eric Karch 6-1 after 2 1/2 innings.
At the point, the Grizzlies' Nos. 7-8-9 hitters Will Amador (home run, double, three RBIs), Matt Jacinto (two-run double) and Nick Rodriguez (two singles, RBI) were a combined 5 for 6 with three runs and six RBIs.
But Central's Jordan Brink, who four-hit Buchanan, met resistance in the third, when Clovis West scored four times on a walk, singles by Karch and John Koretoff, and a momentum-swinging three-run homer by James Bitter.
Sophomore Ryan Soares pitched two hitless innings to earn the win, but his stomach paid for it as a 16-year-old dealing in the TRAC.
"Nerve-racking," he said, "and I'm feeling it right now."