An OF earned a W? That wasn't the crazy part

Position-player pitcher hits walk-off grand slam to cap seven-run comeback

August 7th, 2021
Will Matthiessen began the season in Bradenton before being promoted to Greensboro.

Some extra-innings games are classified as marathons, but to describe Friday's game between the Rangers’ High-A affiliate Hickory Crawdads and the Pirates’ affiliate Greensboro Grasshoppers, you might have to invent a new type of race.

After giving up six runs on the mound, Greensboro's Will Matthiessen, the outfielder-turned-pitcher-turned-folk hero, smacked a walk-off grand slam to cap a seven-run comeback and give the Grasshoppers a wild 15-14 victory. To put a cherry on top, Matthiessen earned the win for his efforts on the mound. Talk about a redemption arc.

The contest started innocently enough, as the Crawdads jumped out to a 2-0 lead early. The Grasshoppers then made it more interesting by taking a 3-2 lead off a Jared Triolo solo homer in the seventh and an RBI double by Pirates' No. 4 prospect Liover Peguero in the eighth.

In the top of the ninth, Hickory tied the game on a Drew Ellis single, which Rangers’ No. 5 prospect Justin Foscue scored on following an error. Jean Casanova held Greensboro scoreless in the bottom half to send the game to extras.

Hickory jumped on pitcher Austin Roberts in the 10th, scoring two runs off a pair of singles. That lead didn’t last long, though, as Chase Murray singled for Greensboro in the bottom half of the inning to drive in two runs. Onto the 11th.

Again, the Crawdads poured it on, scoring three runs in the top half of the frame. Foscue doubled in a run, while Dustin Harris followed with a sacrifice fly. Foscue then came around to score on an error by Triolo in what might have put the game on ice. Grant Koch had other ideas, blasting a three-run homer with one out in the bottom half to tie the game up for a second time in extras.

Now it’s time to get weird.

The Grasshoppers sent Matthiessen, an outfielder, to pitch in the top of the 12th inning and, as you might predict, he proceeded to get shelled. Matthiessen gave up three runs before recording an out. Ezequiel Duran then sent a three-run blast into orbit, giving Hickory a six-run cushion. Given the circumstances, the Crawdads decided to stick with Nic Laio on the mound in the 12th, after he had gotten through the 11th, to save a pitcher in a game that seemingly looked to be over.

Laio got the first two outs of the inning pretty quickly, sandwiching an RBI single by Triolo with a popout and a strikeout. Then, the Grasshoppers sparked a rally, scoring two runs on two singles and a double. At this point, there were two runners on, and Koch came to the plate representing the tying run. After a visit to the mound, Laio issued a seven-pitch walk to Koch, loading the bases. Enter Matthiessen for the most unlikely of endings.

There was a total of 23 runs scored in extra innings in this five-hour, four-minute showdown. The game will go down as just another regular-season win for Greensboro, but let’s not forget the unlikely heroics that took place in one of the unlikeliest comebacks in baseball lore.