ALBANY - Like Houdini, Chris Moates kept escaping. And like Houdini, Moates finally got bit by his magic act.
Moates, Deerfield-Windsor's ace on the mound, loaded the bases Thursday three times against Westfield in a clash of GISA Region 3-AAA leaders. The first two times, he got away unscathed. In the fifth, though, an unlikely hero emerged for Westfield and propelled the Hornets to a 5-4 win in eight innings.
After Moates gave up two of his season-high seven walks and a hit in the fifth to load the bases, the Hornets' No. 7 hitter, Caleb Weaver, connected on a grand slam to give Westfield a 4-3 lead.
The hit sent shockwaves through the home crowd. Just as shocking were the walks and the four errors the Knights committed in a huge region game that put Westfield (16-3, 4-0 Region 3-AAA) alone in first.
"We probably did some uncharacteristic things, but good teams are going to put pressure on you," Deerfield head coach Rod Murray said. "They made the plays, and we didn't take advantage of some opportunities."
The grand slam was Weaver's first homer of the year and couldn't have come at a better time for Westfield, which stranded 12 baserunners on the night after loading the bases in the first and third innings only to see Moates get away.
"(Weaver) has been slumping a little bit, but he's starting to come out of it," Westfield head coach Rob Fitzpatrick said. "He got himself ahead in the count and got a good pitch."
The Knights, however, weren't done. They tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth when Davis Moore's bloop single scored Moates, who went 3-for-4 at the plate.
Neither team scored again until extras when Westfield's Lane Dixon singled off Knights reliever Rhett Cooper to score Alex Smith for a 5-4 Hornets lead. Deerfield put runners on second and third in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, but Westfield starter Brandon Bailey got out of the jam to pick up the win.
Bailey went all eight innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and 11 hits. He struck out three and walked four on 110 pitches.
"He's a tough kid to get the ball from," Fitzpatrick said of Bailey. "He saw me get a guy up in the sixth or seventh inning and he told me, 'Coach, don't take the ball from me. I got this.'"
Cooper took the loss, although he only allowed one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Moates only gave up three hits in his 4 1/3 innings of work, but the seven walks were too much to overcome. The Knights senior, who has yet to lose this season, struck out five and also hit two batters.
"We expect something good to happen all the time," Murray said of Moates' ability to get out of the first two jams. "We have a bad habit of expecting something good to happen for us at any moment. We're not going to panic. This team won't quit because of that game."
Cooper had two hits for the Knights (8-4, 3-1 Region 3-AAA), while Michael Laslie went 3-for-4 and had a run-saving catch in the first to escape a bases-loaded situation. Harris Webb added an RBI for Deerfield, which travels to Calvary Christian in Columbus Tuesday at 4:30