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Wood passes test as Mainland rallies past Holy Spirit in extra innings to remain unbeaten

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher LINWOOD — Robby Wood sprinted from Mainland Regional High School, where he was finishing up the ACTs, to the baseball diamond for the Mustangs’ game against Holy Spirit on Saturday afternoon. He didn’t make it in time to be in the starting lineup, but he didn’t need to rush. He would make his impact felt much later, as the game went into extra innings. With one out in the bottom of the eighth and Matt Thomas standing at third base in a 3-3 tie, Wood hit a chopper to shortstop. Thomas beat the throw to the plate to give the still undefeated Mustangs a 4-3 walkoff win, spoiling an impressive effort from Spartans starter Billy Kral. “I wish it was a little better than the way it happened, but still happy to win the game. I was trying to get ready as fast as I could to get in and hopefully help the team out,” Wood said. Sophomore Billy Kral pitched well for Holy Spirit for five-plus innings on Saturday, but got a no-decision as the Mustangs rallied to win 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Sophomore Billy Kral pitched well for Holy Spirit for five-plus innings on Saturday, but got a no-decision as the Mustangs rallied to win 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “Billy pitched well. He battled for us and got himself out of some jams. We’re starting to come around, but it’s tough to keep saying it’s a moral victory,” said Holy Spirit coach Steve Normane. “We’ve been in most of these games, but we need to get on that other side of it. It’s encouraging to go extra innings with a good team like Mainland, but one of these days it has to start turning around for us.” The Spartans (1-7) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single up the middle by first baseman Matt Marczyk. Mainland (5-0) threatened in the fourth and fifth innings, but Kral worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and stranded two more runners in the fifth. “He’s very good, especially being a sophomore,” Wood said of Kral. “He’s got two more years on varsity. He was really good today.” “Kral did a fantastic job. You can’t say enough about a young guy who just pounded the strike zone with multiple pitches and, obviously, kept us off balance for the better part of five-and-a-third innings. He did a nice job. He put them in a position to win, and that’s all you can really ask for from your starting pitcher,” said Mainland coach Billy Kern. “We kind of knew it would be this type of game against Holy Spirit. They’ve been playing us tough every year. They’ll right the ship. Steve does a nice job and those kids work hard. They’ll be fine.” Mainland rallied to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Anthony Capasso, who worked a scoreless top of the sixth in relief of starting pitcher Nick Droboniku, started the rally with a bloop single down the left-field line. A pair of hit batsmen set up Tyler Wray’s RBI infield single that tied the game, 1-1, and Wood walked with the bases loaded to drive in pinch runner Mike Juliano. Matt McLaughlin plated another run with a safety squeeze off reliever Jules Massella, but Massella worked out of the jam with a groundout. Matt Thomas scored the winning run on Saturday as he raced home on Robby Wood's infield grounder. Matt Thomas scored the winning run on Saturday as he raced home on Robby Wood’s infield grounder. Holy Spirit tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the seventh when A.J. Russo drove in a pair of runs with a double to deep left-center. Kral allowed just four hits and struck out seven, while Droboniku gave up just one hit while striking out three in five innings. Jack Loefflad wasn’t able to register the save in the seventh, but picked up the win after tossing a scoreless eighth. “The one thing I do like about this group is they handle adversity better than some of the teams we’ve had in the past. They never get too high or too low,” Kern said. “Late in the game, we were down 1-0, but we left eight or nine guys on base. So it wasn’t like we were getting mowed down, we just weren’t coming through with the big hits. It was a matter of somebody coming up in a big spot and making a play for us.” Normane said his team has to refocus quickly, as the Spartans are scheduled to take on rival Atlantic City on Tuesday. “We have a big week coming up. We have seven games in eight days, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Normane said. “We have a big rivalry game against Atlantic City on Tuesday, so we’re going to show up for that one and get the ball rolling in the right direction.” Kern’s squad also has some important games on the slate next week. “We have a big week coming up,” he said. “We’ll have our hands full with St. Augustine, Ocean City, Vineland and Washington Township, all teams that are perennial top teams in South Jersey. So we’ll know a lot about ourselves by the end of next week.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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