Glenwood senior Chad Silvani said it was like a dream.
One moment, his Gator baseball team was trailing Monroe Academy by four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the next it was celebrating as the winning run crossed the plate in the bottom of the eighth.
What happened in between was nothing short of miraculous.
Silvani drilled an 0-1 curveball over the right-center field fence for a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game after the Gators allowed four runs in the top half of the inning.
Then, the senior pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning of relief and returned to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom half, this time taking a walk to give Glenwood a 7-6 series-clinching victory.
“You’ll have to give me a minute, I still feel like I’m dreaming,” an elated Silvani said after the game. “All I did was try to go up there and see some pitches, get a runner in or get on base. I felt like I was in a dream when that happened, man. What a moment to live for.”
All total, Silvani had five RBIs in the final two innings and earned the improbable victory on the mound.
The victory sends Glenwood to the AISA Class 3A state championship series, where it will face the winner of Tuscaloosa Academy and Pike Liberal on Wednesday at Paterson Field in Montgomery, Ala. The Gators last played for and won a state championship in 2011.
“It just shows how much hard work we’ve put in,” Silvani said. “All the blood, sweat and tears. We don’t care who we play next. We just want to get that ‘W’ and get a championship.”
If they do, the Gators owe a lot to his heroics.
After a 13-inning affair in Game 2 on Thursday, the two teams appeared headed for a 2-2 stalemate again in the rubber match. That was until the Monroe bats came to life in the top of the seventh.
A hit batter, a bunt single and a wild pitch put runners at second and third with one out and Lane Powell, who had the game-winning hit in the 13th in Game 2, at the plate. Powell came through again with an RBI single to give the Volunteers a 3-2 lead. Starting pitcher Jake McKenzie, who already had two doubles in the game, followed with a three-run home run to make it 6-2, for a moment appearing to clinch the victory for Monroe.
Fanning, however, let his team know in between innings that nothing was written in stone.
“I told them you can’t get four runs at one time, but it’s up to them to decide what kind of season they want,” he said. “It all came down to right there. I told them not to try to get it all back at once. Just do your job and pass the bat to the next guy. Don’t make the last out.”
Dylan Denny led off the inning with a walk. He moved to second on a single by Brandon Moseley and to third on a wild pitch. Lawson Humphries walked to load the bases, and Silvani came to the plate having struck out, flown out and popped out in his first three at-bats.
On the second pitch he saw, he sent a curveball into the trees to tie the game. When he came back up in the eighth, again with the bases loaded, all he had to do was watch as four straight pitches missed the strike zone.
“I didn’t want to do too much,” Silvani said. “I just wanted to get that run home any way I could.”
Fanning praised his senior for his patience and cool head under the pressure and emotion of the two at-bats and inning on the mound.
“Chad has been in our program so long, he’s been in those situations,” Fanning said. “If there’s anybody you can trust, he’s the guy. He had been struggling, but you’ve got to fight through it and he did. That’s what he hadn’t been doing, the patience. He had been chasing, getting out in front of it. Today, he waited, got a pitch he could hit and he hit it.”
And it gave both Silvani and Glenwood a moment they’d never forget.
“It’s just emotional,” Fanning said. “The kids work so hard. They put so much into it. To have it come down to that with a kid who has been in our program so long. It’s a moment we’ll all remember. It’s Glenwood baseball history, and there’s a lot of it.”
Friday at Glenwood
Monroe 110 000 40—6 10 2
Glenwood 010 100 41—7 6 0
WP—Chad Silvani. LP—Jacob Johnson. Leading hitters—Glenwood, Silvani 2-4, GS HR, 5 RBIs, Coleman Duke 1-2, 2B, RBI, Tyler Cadenhead 1-4, 2B, RBI. Records—Monroe, 24-16; Glenwood, 34-10. Next—Glenwood, Wednesday vs. Tuscaloosa Academy/Pike at state championship in Montgomery, Ala.