AVALON — For the first time since becoming a state-ranked baseball team, the No. 3 Avalon Eagles were tested and pushed to the brink.
But the Eagles responded to the adversity — and not just once, twice or three times.
Avalon (13-2, 6-1 in 15-2A) scored three runs in the top of the seventh to tie the ballgame at five against third-place (7-8, 5-2) Itasca and then scored three more in the top of the ninth inning for a three-run win, 8-5.
The Eagle bats came out of their mid-game slumber with three hits and walk to lead off the seventh inning, capped by an Austyn Johnson double to left field that scored Dillon Martin and Dylan Chambers. Eric Smith scored from third base three pitches later when Clayton Hopgood grounded into a fielder's choice to the Itasca pitcher. The Smith score tied the game for the first time on the evening after Itasca jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
The Wampus Cats went quietly in the seventh and eighth innings, which set the table for the Eagles to again hang a crooked number in the top of the ninth inning.
Two consecutive Itasca errors put runners on first and second and allowed Jacob Davidson to lay down a sacrifice bunt that moved both into scoring position. Tony Balderas then executed a squeeze to score Hopgood for a 6-5 Avalon lead.
Martin then walked to plate another Eagle run and Chambers singled to score Davidson to cap the three-run inning.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Alex Hernandez (4-0, 0.96 ERA) retired the first two Wampus Cats and then worked around a single to pick up his second win of the district season.
Hernandez, who was on in relief of Landon Kriska, tossed four innings of one-hit baseball with three strikeouts and three walks. Krista allowed three hits and five runs over his five innings of work with four strikeouts and three walks.
Chambers led the way with three of the Eagles 12 hits, while Eric Smith added two. Every Avalon batter recorded at least on hit Friday in Itasca.
The Eagles return to the diamond Tuesday on the road against the (6-8, 4-3) Frost Polar Bears.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith