The Quincy Gems secured an 8-7 walk-off win in 10 innings over the Hannibal Hoots on Thursday night in the final rivalry matchup of the summer.
Patrick Donohue chased a fly ball to deep center field Thursday night.
The Hannibal Hoots outfielder approached the warning track and reached out his glove. He wasn't quite close enough.
“We were three inches away from going to the 11th inning,” Donohue said.
Instead the ball touched down for a walk-off double by Cody Birdsong, who hit a pair of home runs and drove in four to lead the Quincy Gems to an 8-7 win over Hannibal in 10 innings at QU Stadium.
The game-winning hit came on a full count against Hoots reliever Tyler Lunger. Francisco Rodriguez scored from first base.
“I had been going to the middle of the field all game so I was just trying to stick with that approach,” said Birdsong, who finished 3-for-6. “Honestly I thought it was either going to get over the wall or the outfielder was going to catch it. He almost ran into the wall.
“It feels good to finish our season with a win like this.”
Chris Iazzetta connected for a two-out RBI single scoring Brady West to pull Hannibal even at 7 with its river rival in the top of the eighth.
Jonny Steiner pitched two high-leverage innings out of the Hoots bullpen. The reliever induced a flyout by Birdsong in the bottom of the eighth to strand two runners and forced a popout to leave a runner on third to end the ninth.
The Hannibal offense went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth and couldn't capitalize on a two-out double by West in the 10th.
“It didn't go our way, but we battled back,” said Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks, whose team trailed by four runs through three innings. “You can't ever say we didn't give it our best. The team heart has been good all year. I commend these guys for not giving up.”
Rodriguez smacked a one-out single to left in the bottom of the 10th, and Birdsong came to the plate with two outs.
That's when the Gems slugger capped his special night in style in front of a paid crowd of 1,822.
Birdsong hit a home run to straightaway center as part of a three-run first inning that helped Quincy erase an early 2-0 deficit.
The solo shot hit off the black batter's eye in center field and traveled more than 410 feet.
He followed that with a two-run homer to right in the second for a 5-2 lead.
“If Cody Birdsong is not drafted next year, there's something wrong with the system,” said Gems interim manager Pat Robles. “The kid can just flat-out hit. What he did to take that off the batter's eye to center field was impressive.”
Ryan Mantle drove a solo homer to left-center immediately before Birdsong's initial blast. Five straight Gems collected hits against Hannibal starter Graham Kuck in the first.
The consecutive long balls made for a moment Birdsong said he will cherish.
“Ryan (Mantle) is my best friend,” Birdsong said. “We've lived together for a while and played together since we were 15. This summer is probably the last time we'll get to play together, so that was awesome.”
Kyle Crowl produced an RBI groundout in the third to give Quincy a 6-2 lead.
Brendan Saak helped Hannibal stay within striking distance with five innings of two-run relief. He struck out seven and walked none.
“It's amazing to think where we'd be if it weren't for him,” Hicks said of Saak, a graduated senior. “He's been one of the best relievers in the league if not the best. What he's done all year is tremendous and we thank him for his contributions.”
Behind Saak, Hannibal started chipping away.
Iazzetta got the comeback underway with a fifth-inning solo homer.
“Chris (Iazzetta) is a good hitter and it was really nice to see him barrel some balls up tonight,” Donohue said of Iazzetta, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Alex Satunas blooped a single to left to drive in West in the sixth. Later that inning, Iazzetta sent a double down the left field line to score Aaron Goecks to make it 6-5.
Donohue came home on a Quincy error in the seventh to knot the score at 6.
When the Gems threw to first for a pickoff attempt, Donohue bolted down the third-base line toward home. After pump-faking a throw to second, the Gems first baseman airmailed a throw past third base.
Donohue scored easily, and Josh Lane tried to score from first on the play but was gunned down at the plate.
The Hoots' momentum was stopped in its tracks.
“We're not an offense that can sit back and wait for the next hit to come,” Hicks said. “We have to take our chances to make or break. We took a chance and there was no better guy to do it with than the fastest kid on our team in Josh.”
Cody Klotz led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer to right to put Quincy back in the lead.
Jimmy Huber earned the win for the Gems by allowing one run while pitching the final three innings.
“The kid just deals,” Robles said of Huber, primarily an infielder. “He's competitive. He's got a great arm at shortstop, and I really think if he works on it at Eastern (Illinois), he could really become a good pitcher.”
Quincy collected 13 hits in the win to Hannibal's 10.
Jake Hahn recorded three hits for the Gems, while Klotz posted two hits and two runs.
Donohue finished with two hits, two runs and three stolen bases, while West, Satunas and Iazzetta all had multi-hit games for the Hoots.
“We showed we could come back and fight to the end, especially in game No. 59,” Donohue said. “We're still out here grinding.”
Quincy concludes the season with a record of 33-27 and won nine of 15 games against the Hoots this summer.
Hannibal (24-35) is scheduled to host Springfield for its season finale Friday night.