PLYMOUTH | It had been five years since Griffith and Andrean met in a baseball regional and five years plus a few games since the Panthers beat the 59ers.
When Austin Brown's single flew over the head of the Andrean infield into shallow right-center and scored Matt Colomes, the sands of time can be turned over and the counting can restart. Griffith beat the Niners 6-5 in the Class 3A Plymouth Regional semifinal Saturday, the first time since the 2007 regular season the Panthers count a win over Andrean.
"I almost started crying, I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t even know what to think (when Colomes scored)," said senior Garrett Litke, who earned the win with 1 2/3 innings of relief.
Litke also picked up two of Griffith's three hits against four Andrean pitchers. The 59ers defense doomed itself in the third and fifth innings as the Panthers (18-15) scored five unearned runs on three errors and two runs walked in.
At one point, Griffith had five runs on just one hit. In two previous games this season, the Panthers hadn't scored on the Niners and Andrean had committed a combined three errors.
"I was surprised they struggled defensively at times, but as the game went on we kept telling our kids ‘believe,’ ‘play hard,’ ‘no pressure,’" Griffith coach Brian Jennings said. "This week we had a great, low-key week of practice … and it really paid off."
"You don’t walk people, you don’t make errors, you don’t throw wild pitches, you don’t make passed balls, tell me which of those we didn’t do today," Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said. "This might be the worst game I’ve seen Andrean play in a decade. We couldn’t get bunts down, we couldn’t make routine plays, we couldn’t get forces at second base, we got called out with the bases loaded. … It’s a game that if we came back to win it, how do you win this game, because we didn’t deserve to win it."
Andrean (27-5) opened the first inning with three runs on four singles and an error. All nine 59ers hitters batted in the first.
After Griffith took the 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth, a bases-loaded walk in the top of the sixth tied the game. Andrean also loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but Litke pitched his way out of the inning.
"Being a relief pitcher is never easy. I just didn’t think, I wanted to throw the ball, I wanted to get out of it,” Litke said. “I wanted to win this game so bad, it’s unbelievable.”
Pishkur said he was saving ace and Georgia Tech recruit Zac Ryan for a possible championship game, with the plan to win the entire regional, not just the first game. Ryan had already pitched twice against Griffith in the regular season.
"We were playing to win this whole thing, not playing to win one game. We throw Zac Ryan, we win this game, now how do you beat Western or Mishawaka Marian," Pishkur said. "We got the best draw possible and we fell on our face.
“(Griffith) guys got from first to second without doing anything. I don’t want to diminish the win for Griffith, but we played awful baseball.”