Jacob Terry relieved Derek LaMar in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday at Escambia with Navarre clinging to a one-run lead, one out and the tying and winning runs on base.
"What is he doing?" Terry's father, Roy, the NHS Baseball Booster Club president, asked fans around him as Raiders' head coach Mickey O'Quinn handed Jacob the ball.
Not that the senior Terry doesn't believe in his son; he does. But, although Jacob has been an outfield fixture and a steady bat for the 2011 Raiders, he hasn't enjoyed the same success from the mound. In just three and one-third innings pitched this year, none in almost six weeks, Jacob had allowed six earned runs on five hits, four bases-on-balls and a hit batter for an earned-run average of 9.00 -- not confidence-inspiring numbers.
To Roy's further consternation, Jacob had recently started experimenting with a new side-arm delivery.
No worries. The big (6-foot-3, 200-pound) junior right-hander's first pitch to the Gators' Devan Harriman was a strike; the second Harriman lined back to Terry, who tossed the ball to Kyle Camilli at first in time to double-up Andre Woodard and save the Raiders' 5-4 District 1-5A win. Two pitches, two strikes, two outs. Game over.
"He's been playing around with (the side-arm delivery) in practice for awhile and he's pretty accurate with it," O'Quinn said after the game. "I thought he would come in and give (Escambia's batters) a different look, and he can really bring it from down there, (Terry's side-arm pitches aren't) those loopy pitches you get from a lot of side-armers."
Terry was the Raiders' fourth pitcher. Starter Brock Secondine (5-2) earned the win despite struggling. The senior allowed all four Gators' runs on 10 hits and two walks in five innings pitched. The normally reliable Justin Jordan -- the junior pitcher and first baseman had a 5-0 record and an ERA of 1.56 before Tuesday's game -- struggled with his control in the sixth, retiring just one of the four batters he faced. Jordan walked a batter and hit two before giving LaMar the ball with one out and the bases loaded.
LaMar, a junior with a 3.08 ERA, got Jake Jacobs to ground to second baseman Jason Frederick, who threw to catcher Dusty Jones to force out Andrew Tindell at the plate. LaMar then squelched the Gators' threat by striking out Anthony Bushey.
Justin Simpson singled to lead off the Escambia seventh and moved to second on Larry Eaton's sacrifice bunt. The umpire ruled that Jones interfered with Woodard's swing and awarded the pinch-hitter first, putting the potential winning run on base and setting up Terry's unlikely heroics.
Navarre improved its overall record to 11-10 and clinched fourth in the district with a 4-5 record. The one-run win was the Raiders' seventh this season and second against Escambia (Navarre clipped the Gators 4-3 on March 8 at Navarre). The Raiders have lost two one-run games and are 8-3 in games decided by one or two runs.
The Raiders scored twice in the third but Escambia sent nine batters to the plate and scored three runs on five hits and a walk against Secondine in the bottom half of the inning. Navarre took the lead for good in the fifth on a two-run triple by Devante Taylor, who scored the Raiders' fifth run when Escambia shortstop Tindell couldn't field pinch-hitter Cale Secondine's grounder.
The Gators pulled to within a run when Jake Jacobs scored, moved to second and third on two-out singles by Simpson and Eaton and scored on a wild pitch by Secondine.
Frederick, a freshman, led Navarre with two hits, including a fifth-inning double, in four at-bats and two runs scored. Camilli also scored twice and Jordan and Taylor drove in two runs apiece.
Escambia outhit Navarre 11-6, led by Eaton's 3-for-3 effort. Tindell went 2-for-4 with a triple, a run and a run-batted-in. Simpson also was 2-for-4, Tyler Trussell was 2-for-3 and Jacobs went 1-for-3 and scored twice.
Joseph Scapecchi started and took the loss for Escambia, allowing all five Raiders' runs on six hits and a pair of walks. He struck out eight Raiders and reliever Caleb Lewis, who pitched the seventh, struck out the three Navarre batters he faced.
The Raiders and Gators (8-13, 3-7) will play once more this year, April 26 in the first round of the district tournament. Escambia is the host team, but will be the "visitor" when it plays Navarre because of the Raiders' better district record.
The top two seeds have a first-round bye. First-round winners advance to the semifinals, with the championship game scheduled to be played at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 28. Both finalists advance to the Region 1-5A tournament.
Navarre will host junior varsity and varsity games against Pensacola Washington at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on Thursday, April 14, and play its last regular-season district game at Pace on Friday, also at 4:30 and 7 p.m. The Raiders will play their final regular-season games at home against Freeport on Monday and at Fort Walton Beach on Tuesday. Both games are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.