FAIRFIELD — Michael Jordan's performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals is known by sports fans around the world as the "Flu game."
Austin Simpson didn't quite have a flu game on Saturday. The Fairfield senior did, however, start Saturday not feeling 100 percent physically heading to the diamond for a home triangular with Mediapolis and Southeast Warren. Simpson would go on to collect three hits, including his first career game-winning walk off home run, as the Trojans rallied in the seventh for a 5-3 win over the Bulldogs before edging the second-ranked (1A) Warhawks, 8-7, when Elan Ledger scored in the final inning on a throwing error.
"I was kind of banged up a little bit. I just needed some extra rest before I came out to the field," Simpson said. "That's just stuff you have to overcome when you play sports. It happens all the time."
The Trojans overcame a frustrating start to the day, stranding seven base runners in the first six innings, six in scoring position. Brennan Breuer pitched six shutout innings for Mediapolis as the Bulldogs (17-8) carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Fairfield, however, worked into Breuer's pitch count forcing the starting hurler to throw 103 pitches in the first six innings. With just seven pitches left to throw, Breuer was pulled before the bottom of the seventh giving Zach Osborne the ball trying to close out the game.
The Trojans never let Osborne record an out. Drew Martin followed up lead-off single by Cooper Drish with a two-run homer to open the Fairfield seventh, cutting the Mediapolis lead to 3-2.
Walks to Carter Ferrel and Kosta Papazoglou then brought up Simpson, who appeared to hit a walk-off three run homer to right that just drifted foul. Two pitches later, Simpson connected on a drive over the fence in left center field to complete the first comeback of the day for the Trojans.
"It shows that we come together as a team as games get later and later," Simpson said. "If we have to grind it out, we'll grind it out. It was a pretty awesome feeling to hit two walk-off home runs, even if only one counted."
Fairfield (16-3) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second game of the day, coming moments after Southeast Warren (22-2) earned a 10-2 win over Mediapolis. The Warhawks rallied by scoring five times in the fourth before relief pitcher Connor Lyons came on to limit Southeast Warren to just two unearned runs in the top of the fifth.
"We knew both teams were going to be very good competition with good pitching and good hitting," Fairfield head baseball coach Josh Allison said. "That was a tough spot for Connor to come in, but he really responded well. The biggest lesson for the day was that we're never out of a game. Even if we have a couple things go against us, we can continue to battle back."
Trailing 7-5 in the sixth, Fairfield rallied late again. After Ferrel drew a one-out walk, Papazoglou connected on his second home run of the game. The two-run blast tied the score at 7-7, setting the table for a second straight walk-off win as Ledger scored from third following hits by Jackson Weaton and Cole Engle, who drew a pick off throw from Warhawk relief pitcher Colby Page at first base that tailed into foul territory, allowing Ledger to dash home with the winning run.
"It was definitely worth it to overcome the deficits and overcome the conditions," Papazoglou said. "When it was getting tough out there, I just started thinking about the game and all the things I could do to help us be the best baseball team we can be.
"It was a pretty long day. We're pretty tired, but it was pretty fun to come out of here with two wins."
Fairfield 5, Mediapolis 3
Mediapolis 002 001 0 — 3 5 2
Fairfield 000 000 5 — 5 6 0
Mediapolis battery — Brennan Breuer (6IP, 3H, 7K, 4BB) and Zach Osborne (L, 0-1) (3H, 5R, 5ER, 2BB), Jordan Anderson catching.
3B — Osborne.
Hits — Ben Wolgemuth 1-2, Alex Diewold 1-3, Osborne 1-3, Tyler Samuel 1-3, Colby Whitaker 1-3.
RBI — Cauy Massner, Osborne, Wolgemuth.
Runs — Diewold, Osborne, Samuel.
Fairfield battery — Carter Ferrel (W, 1-0) (7IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 7K, 2BB), Kosta Papazoglou catching.
HR — Drew Martin, Austin Simpson.
Hits — Tristin Waugh 2-3, Simpson 2-4, Cooper Drish 1-3, Martin 1-3.
RBI — Simpson 3, Martin 2.
Runs — Drish, Ferrel, Martin, Papazoglou, Simpson.
Fairfield 8, Southeast Warren 7
SEW 000 520 0 — 7 7 3
FF 202 102 1 — 8 9 4
Southeast Warren battery — Kaleb Bauer (3IP, 5H, 5R, 4ER, 2K, 2BB, HBP), Cade Nelson (IP), Bauer (2IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, K, BB) and Page (L, 3-1) (1/3IP, 2H, R), Page and Bauer catching.
2B — Bauer.
Hits — Nelson 1-2, Tanner Dierking 1-3, Brock Kyner 1-3, Mason Merfeld 1-3, Bauer 1-4, Brock Masner 1-4, Page 1-4.
RBI — Merfeld 2, Masner, Nelson, Page.
Runs — Lane Dittmer 2, Bauer, Ben Crall, Dierking, Bryce Hall, Dominic Waddle.
Fairfield battery — Brad Smithburg (3 1/3IP, 5H, 5R, 5ER, K, BB, HBP) and Connor Lyons (W, 1-0) (3 2/3IP, 2H, 2R, 2K, BB), Kosta Papazoglou catching.
HR — Papazoglou 2, Tristin Waugh.
Hits — Drew Martin 2-3, Papazoglou 2-4, Cooper Drish 1-2, Caden Jones 1-2, Austin Simpson 1-3, Waugh 1-4, Jackson Weaton 1-4.
RBI — Papazoglou 4, Waugh 2.
Runs — Papazoglou 2, Simpson 2, Carter Ferrel, Elan Ledger, Martin, Waugh.