Julian Henderson   Danville Register Bee

Ole Sheldon Hits Walkoff Homer to Win Championship

Greeneville Astros 2 Danville Braves 1 (10)

September 3, 2004

By John Coscia Danville Register & Bee

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - A walk-off home run to win a playoff series championship title game ... it very well may be the most exciting play in all of sports.

It’s every boy’s childhood dream to step to the plate with that scenario. On Thursday night, Ole Sheldon saw that dream come true as his solo blast in the bottom of the tenth inning gave the Greeneville Astros a 2-1 victory over the Danville Braves in the final game of the Appalachian League Championship Series.
But before that thrilling finish brought out a fireworks finish that would rival a Fourth of July showcase, both teams had a chance to end it all in the ninth inning.
The ninth inning, two outs, full count, the championship-winning run in scoring position - and the bat’s in your hands.
It’s the kind of thing little kids dream about when they imagine themselves being a professional baseball player some day.
Pitchers put themselves on the mound in that same situation - only they strike out the batter.
That was the thrilling scenario that unfolded for both the Braves and the Astros at Pioneer Park in Greeneville, Tenn., on Thursday night as the series finale lived up to its billing - and then some - before the Astros won the game on Sheldon’s walk-off homer.
In the top of the ninth, Cole Armstrong delivered a leadoff single, Clint Sammons laid a 1-2 pitch down the third base line, Mike Rozema was intentionally walked, Van Pope struck out with the hit-and-run called. That moved the runners up to second and third but when Sheldon, the Greenville first baseman, smothered a Keith Eichas shot hit down the first base line the inning was over.
It wouldn’t, however, be Sheldon’s last big play.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Danville reliever Rodny Jimenez faced his second challenging situation of the night.
After striking out the first batter, he hit the ever-dangerous Mitch Einertson with a pitch. A wild pitch moved Einertson to second but Jimenez struck out Antonio Garcia for the second out. An irrelevant walk to Bryan Triplett brought Neil Sellers to the plate. Jimenez and Sellers both battled the count full before Jimenez got Sellers to strike out swinging on a high heater.
The Braves went down in order in the top of the 10th inning.
Sheldon led off the bottom of the frame by taking a 0-1 Jimenez fastball over the left field wall for the game-winner.
It was only Sheldon’s second hit of the series but unquestionably the biggest in his career.
The flood of emotions overcame both coaching staffs as well as their players.
In one locker room, tears and cheers of joy. In the other, tears and sorrow over another one that got away.
. . .
For the second straight night Danville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning and as Greeneville had done during Wednesday’s contest it took them just one swing of the bat to tie the score. The only difference was that in the third and deciding game of the series, the Astros didn’t procrastinate until the last inning to bring out the fireworks display in right field.
The Braves took the early lead when Van Pope led the frame off with a single, stole second and scored on Carl Loadenthal’s two-out RBI single. Loadenthal would later steal second but was stranded there when the inning ended on a fly out to shortstop.
Meanwhile Danville’s Nelson Payano had been nothing short of perfect, literally, over the first three and two-third innings, having struck out three, walked none and allowed no hits.
Enter the Appalachian League’s MVP - Einertson.
Einertson, who led the rookie league with 24 home runs, had been held to just one hit in his first eight at-bats of the championship series. That sole hit [was] a home run in the fourth inning of the first game of the series, an 8-3 Danville victory.
In the fourth inning of the finale, Einertson stepped to the plate and connected on a 2-2 pitch from Payano that he drilled over the left field fence for a solo four-bagger.
“I figured out the kinks in my swing,” Einertson said. “I guess I did it just in time.”
On one pitch, Payano had lost his no-hitter, perfect game and shutout.
Did the one mistake rattle the 5-11, 155-pound, left-handed hurler, who entered the championship game with just 24 complete innings pitched under his belt?
To the contrary, he struck out four of the next nine hitters faced, allowed just one base runner and picked him off first. That brought Einertson back to the plate with one out in the seventh inning.
For the second time in as many at bats he toasted a Payano pitch. This one, however, Pioneer Field contained - but just barely, as it landed at the base of the right center field wall for a stand-up double.
. . .
Kevin Villa entered and walked the next batter before getting Bryan Triplett, the hero of Wednesday’s game, to fly out to left field. He then walked the bases loaded, which promptly brought out the hook from Saul.
Enter Rodny Jimenez.
He quickly worked his way ahead to a 0-2 count against Sheldon. Sheldon, however, with the bases full of Astros, took two close pitches to even the count at 2-2. Jimenez then got Sheldon to fly out to short right field where Brandon Jones registered the final out.
Sheldon, however, would take full advantage of his final at-bat against Jimenez.

Danville001000000 0170
Greeneville000100000 1230

JC Holt, 2B5000001.385
Carl Loadenthal, CF5020101.500
Brandon Jones, RF5020001.385
Mark Jurich, LF4000001.100
Cole Armstrong, DH4020000.375
Derrick Arnold, PR0000000.250
Clint Sammons, C2000011.273
Mike Rozema, SS2000010.000
Van Pope, 3B4110001.250
Keith Eichas, 1B4000001.200
Greeneville AstrosABRHHRRBIWKAVG
Waladimir Sutil, SS4000000.214
Ryan Reed, RF4000002.250
Mitch Einertson, CF3121100.300
Antonio Garcia, DH2000012.167
Christopher Uhle, PR/DH1000001.000
Bryan Triplett, 2B3000012.300
Neil Sellers, 3B3000012.273
Ole Sheldon, 1B3111110.222
Jordan Parraz, LF3000001.200
Justin Towles, C3000001.100

Nelson Payano6-1/32111811.42
Kelvin Villa    1/30002000.00
Rodny Jimenez L (0-1)2-1/31111313.86
Juan Gutierrez75111601.29
James Barthmaier, W (1-1)32001103.86

LOB: Danville 8, Greeneville 5.
2B: M Einertson (1).
HR: Einertson (2) off N. Payano, Sheldon (1) off R. Jimenez.
RBI: C. Loadenthal (2), M. Einertson (3), O. Sheldon (1)
SB: Loadenthal (1), D. Arnold (1), M. Rozema (2), V. Pope (1). CS: Sheldon.

IBB off Barthmaier (M. Rozema).
HBP by Jimenez (M. Einertson).
WP: Jimenez. T: 2:44. A: 1980.

The thrilling finish of the game was one that even had two-time World Series champion Jack Billingham’s heart pumping out of his chest.
“I’ve been in the minor league system now for 18 years and in baseball for 38 and let me tell you this was some finish,” Billingham said. “My heart was pumping so hard. Winning never gets old. But let me tell you what, y’all weren’t easy. Anybody that walked away from this one and doesn’t think they got their money’s worth I don’t know what else they could ask for.
“I’m retiring after this year. What a way to go out,” Billingham said. “I love this game. I really, really love this game.”
Danville took its first step this season with an East Division title. Next year the Braves will host two games if they can return to the championship series. A few of the players from both squads will be playing in the major leagues someday soon. But none of them will ever forget the two games they played in the first two days of September 2004.
That’s baseball.

Source: www.sportsnetwork.com and the Danville Register Bee

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