Flaming Hearts remain hot with walk-off win

Effingham’s Matthew Loy delivers a pitch to Shelbyville’s Payton Bryant Wednesday afternoon at Paul Smith Field in Effingham. Chet Piotrowski Jr. photo/Piotrowski Studios

The Effingham Flaming Hearts used a walk-off sacrifice fly from Brayton Poland to come back and defeat the Shelbyville Rams Wednesday, 4-3.

"We didn't give up," said Flaming Hearts head coach Chris Fleener. "We dealt with a little adversity there, because they came back on us and put a little pressure on us. It's good for our boys to have to go through that a little bit and be down and learn to fight back. They stayed calm and were able to come back and do it.

Effingham was able to get on the board and set the tone in the first inning, when Poland hit a two-run home run, his second in as many days to take a 2-0 lead.

On the hill for the Flaming Hearts was sophomore Matthew Loy. After being given the lead, Loy responded by striking out the side in the the top of the second and finished with five in 2 2/3 innings pitched, not allowing any runs.

While Loy was cruising along despite giving up a pair of doubles, the only hits he surrendered, he was restricted by pitch count, as the Hearts till have multiple games this week and needing arms. They have played two games on the week already.

"Conference games are important to us and we try to win every game," Fleener said. "But you have to have some kind of strategy and look ahead the next couple games. Luckily we have some boys that are able to throw strikes and get the job done.

"Matthew did a great job. He came in and I thought he had very good command and threw a nice game."

The score remained the same until the top of the fifth, when the Rams were able to string a pair of hits together to put two runners in scoring position behind base hits from Noah Trimble and Malcolm Miller. After a walk from Kentrell Beck loaded the bases, Rece Pullen tied the game with a two-run double.

After Grant Mose was hit by a pitch to load the bases again. A bases-loaded walk to Payton Bryant brought Beck in to score to take a 3-2 lead.

The first two Flaming Hearts batters were retired to start the bottom of the fifth, but Poland came through with a double to put a runner in scoring position. Jackson Lee then reached on an error from the Shelbyville shortstop and another error was committed by the left fielder, letting the ball get by him and allowing Poland to score while Lee cruised into second. A balk from Shelbyville's Pullen allowed Lee to advance to third, but Pullen picked up the third out via strikeout to keep the game tied at three.

In the bottom of the sixth, Parker Wolfe led off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Wolfe advanced to third after a strikeout and a groundout, but the Flaming Hearts were unable to bring the go-ahead run across.

Poland was able to retire the Rams in order in the top of the seventh.

With the game still tied at three headed to the bottom half of the inning, Kendall Ballman led off with a walk and advanced into scoring position after stealing second. A sacrifice bunt from Cooper Jackson advanced Ballman to third, setting the stage once again for Poland. And he did not disappoint, hitting a fly ball to centerfield that proved deep enough to score Ballman on the tag-up to earn the win both for his team and himself on the mound.

"[Brayton] has been a blessing to this team," Fleener said. "He's stepped up to be a leader on this team with his bat and showed tonight he can do it on the mound as well. He's an all-around good player and he's a great kid to be around."

The Flaming Hearts improve to 5-0 while the Rams drop to 5-4.