Ed Luers has faced many tight games on the mound but not at the plate.
Thursday night, the Crouse Construction reliever stepped up to bat with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Luers delivered a perfect bunt to score one run. A second quickly crossed the plate on a throwing error.
Luers had driven in the tying run, and the error scored the game-winner in a roller coaster 13-12 victory over Cecil Johnies that began Monday night at Thomas Run Park.
Crouse had apparently won 10-9 Monday night, but Johnies manager Eddie Lynch filed a protest over a sixth-inning play. Lynch's protest was upheld, and the two teams returned, Thursday night, to a 9-9 sixth-inning tie in the first game of their best-of-three Northern Division championship series in the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League.
Before Luers came up in the bottom of the sixth Thursday, Crouse had snapped the tie on Ken Batten's two-run double.
Crouse manager Johnny Hughes had no choice but to let Luers bat, so he could let Luers pitch in the seventh inning.
Luers took a called strike. He bunted the second pitch foul. He bunted the third pitch perfectly between the pitcher and first base. Mike Hughes scored from third. Batten scored too when Johnies' pitcher Ron Wilson overthrew the plate.
Thanks to Luers -- and Wilson's error -- Crouse took a 13-9 lead into the seventh inning. And the team needed every run.
With two outs in the seventh, Luers gave up three runs on homers.
Danny Sexton hit a solo shot over the left-field fence. Two batters later, John Kampes sent a two-run blast to the same spot.
Next up -- clean-up hitter Mark Brockell. But Luers forced Brockell to ground out to Mike Hughes.
"Eddie had a couple pitches get up, but he doesn't know their batters very well," said Johnny Hughes. "He did a good job against the meat of their lineup."
Luers, who had pitched the first no-hitter ever at Bluefield (W.Va.) State College in the spring, had actually batted twice in the game. He came up once in the since-erased seventh inning Monday night. That time, he struck out.
Crouse had scored what appeared to be the game-winner Monday night when Wilson walked Dan Oldendick with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning. But Lynch protested an obstruction call from Johnies' half of the sixth inning to erase that final inning.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Kampes tried to steal home. One umpire said Johnies pinch hitter Don Potter interfered with catcher Dan Oldendick making the tag. The other umpire said Oldendick interfered with Potter.
The original call allowed Kampes to score and sent Potter to first, but after further review, the umpires sent Kampes back to third base. Lynch's protest was upheld because Kampes should have been allowed to score if Oldendick had interfered.
The game resumed with two outs and two runners on for Johnies in the bottom of the sixth. Luers got the final out of Johnies' half of the sixth on a long fly ball to left fielder Rick Lester.
The game had just about everything fans have come to expect from archrivals Crouse and Johnies, and a little bit more.
It wasn't exactly a pitchers' duel. In addition to 25 runs scored, the teams combined for 23 hits, 15 walks and nine stolen bases (six by Crouse). Crouse sent Johnies' starter Jay Witasick packing after an inning and two thirds -- and five runs.
The game featured four errors; two wild pitches -- one for each team -- one intentional walk; and a handful of passed balls.
The two teams were scheduled to conclude the series yesterday. Bad weather would move the second game to today at 2 p.m. at Johnies' field in North East, with the third game to follow, if necessary.
The winner advances to the league championship series against the Parkville Royals. That best-of-five series was to begin today and continue each night as necessary. Bad weather would force everything back a day.