Trailing 9-5 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, local favorite Illinois Wesleyan University mounted an improbable rally against North Central College that led to one of the more bizarre endings to a baseball game I’ve ever witnessed.
Enter Matt “the Cat” Adams. The long-time “assistant director of baseball operations” at Illinois Wesleyan, as he is referred to by public address announcer Ed Moore, Matt has been known to put an occasional hex on an opposing pitcher.
And in this case, it may have been his most successful jeer ever.
As noted previously, North Central started the inning with a four run lead, and after retiring the first two batters in the 9th, a hit by pitch, a double and a walk forced North Central to bring in closer Brendan Ryan. Ryan had already posted three saves on the year, and facing the potential tying run put him in line for his fourth.
Four batters later (three walks and one hit batsman) the score was tied, and Ryan was heading to the dugout, accompanied by the IWU student’s cheers that contributed heavily to him becoming unnerved on the mound.
It was the kind of environment and backing any player would love to have from his classmates. Although the same type of thing happens at other schools, it is always nice to see the student engagement. Kids being kids.
With the score tied and North Central’s fourth pitcher warming up, Matt took over.
A hex. A jinx. A whammy.
And a bizarre ending.
North Central’s Matt Hussey stepped on the mound, took a signal, broke his hands before stepping off and the game was over.
A balk and the winning run, without throwing a pitch.
And beyond that, a huge momentum shift in the series.
Two teams picked in the top four of the conference, Wesleyan went on to sweep the weekend by winning the next two games, taking a two-game lead in the standings over second-place and defending champ North Park.
North Central sits five games back, in fifth place.
And Matt “the Cat” Adams continues to sit just inside the dugout every home game, a spot he has occupied the past twenty years or so.