Before Northside pitcher Colton Joyner stepped to the plate in the seventh inning Tuesday, he regrouped mentally and said a prayer.
Joyner was about to walk into the batter’s box with the game on the line. The Patriots had trailed rival Columbus all afternoon, but Waggener Davidson’s walk and Spencer Chandler’s single meant two runners on with Northside only trailing by one.
With no outs to spare, Joyner asked for some help before the big moment.
“I saw Spencer get the hit,” Joyner said. “I said, ‘God, let me get this hit right here. I believe I’m going to get it.’”
On the fourth pitch of his at-bat, Joyner sent a ball curving toward the line in left field. It landed just fair and carried to the fence in foul territory, where it took an awkward bounce that left the Columbus outfielder scrambling.
As the ball bounced around, Davidson and Chandler came charging around the bases and across home plate. Chandler’s run meant Joyner’s double with a 2-run walk-off that gave Northside a wild 5-4 win.
“It looked fat. It looked big and up, so I just swung at it,” Joyner said of the pitch. “Next thing you know, it went right down the line.”
Joyner’s chance to play the hero was a bit of redemption for the junior. The starting pitcher for Northside, Joyner got rattled early on when Columbus put up two runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth.
Columbus threatened for more in the final innings, but Joyner settled in.
“We figured out by the fourth or fifth inning that they liked the inside pitches, so we started going away from them,” Joyner said. “Once we started going away from them, they stopped scoring.”
Northside head coach Dee Miller spoke highly of Joyner’s pitching, saying he repeatedly made the pitches when the Patriots needed him to. Miller also applauded Joyner’s heroics at the plate, which he explained didn’t come without a great deal of work.
“I’m really proud of him to be able to come through in that moment,” Miller said. “He’s a young man who’s worked really hard. He’s put a lot of time in working on his swing the past month. For him to cash in right there with a double to score two was great for him and us.”
Joyner said afterward the win wasn’t about one player, as several Northside batters chipped away at Columbus’ lead. Joyner just happened to be the last, and it was clear he took great pride in finishing the job.
Once the Patriots had calmed down after mobbing each other over the game’s exhilarating ending, Joyner explained how much it meant to beat the rival Blue Devils.
“It’s a big game,” Joyner said. “Last year when they came here, they run ruled us in about the fourth or fifth (inning). It’s big to come out here and let our seniors lead the way for us to get the win.”