A doubleheader, extra innings, and a rain delay.
It proved to be a long night at Finch Field for the High Point-Thomasville HiToms and the Gastonia Grizzlies, but both teams left with something to build upon, splitting the two one-run games.
The HiToms took game one 5-4 in eight innings, in large part thanks to the Coastal Plain League's adoption of international baseball rules, while Gastonia used a late Connor Durden homer to defeat HPT 3-2 in game two.
Scoreless frames soon followed, with the HiToms catching a break in the third inning defensively. Durden laced a double down the right field line that appeared to score Koby Kelton, but the balled trickled out of play, resulting in a ground-rule double that returned Kelton to third base. Nolan Milton then lined out on the next pitch to end the inning.
After five innings, the rain came, resulting in an hour-long delay. And that was just the beginning of an extended, but exciting, evening.
The HiToms appeared catalyzed after the delay, pushing across three runs in the sixth. Caveness scored on a Blake Siegler wild pitch, and Greensboro college product Cameron Peters followed with an important two-out, two run single to centerfield on a 3-2 count.
But Gastonia would not go quietly, tying the game back up with three unearned runs thanks to RBI singles from Colton Thomas and Durden.
International baseball rules then came into play, as each team began the extra eighth inning with runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. HiTom pitcher Michael Boswell then proceeded to add to the danger by walking Satterfield to lead off the inning. Boswell responded with authority, striking out the next two batters swinging before getting Eddie Paparella to fly out to right field, just a few feet shy of a grand slam.
It only took one pitch for the HiToms to end proceedings in the bottom of the frame. Jacob Whitley laid down a bunt down the third base line, Milton's throw squirted away from first baseman Jake Rolly, and Dillon Bowman alerted rounded third and crossed home standing up.
The ending felt abrupt, yet somehow fitting for a game that featured plenty of back-and-forth action.
But at that point, time had elapsed to 8:30 after a 5:02 first pitch, with more baseball to come.
(Note: The box score currently does not reflect the correct starter for game one. Riley Isenhour, not Ronnie Engelman, started the first game for HPT. Engelman started game two only.)
As if both teams knew expediency was needed in game two, they combined for just one hit through three innings, with HPT's Ronnie Engelman and Gastonia's Collin Garner keeping the opposing offenses at bay.
The punches and counterpunches from game one resumed in the fourth inning, however. Gastonia's came in the form of haymakers.
Durden continued his hot hitting, smacking a double to the wall before scoring on a Rolly sacrifice fly. Smithers added to the tally, blasting a home run to straightaway centerfield in the following at-bat.
Engelman bounced back with two strikeouts, but he needed help from his offense. And he got it, though in a much different way.
Rather than haymakers, it was a series of jabs by the HiToms, along with a couple of mistakes by the Gastonia defense, that evened up the game. Two errors in the inning, particularly one on an E.P. Reese ground ball to third that scored Caveness and Butler, put the HiToms right back in it.
After a scoreless fifth, the Grizzlies would land the decisive blow in the following frame, as Durden walloped a solo homer over the right field wall.
The HiToms got runners to the corners in the seventh with two outs, but Whitley popped out in foul territory to end the contest.
Fireworks capped off the night with an exciting flourish. For those who made it until a few minutes past 11:00, of course.
The HiToms (1-1) take on the Florence RedWolves on the road Saturday at 7:00 before returning home to face the Forest City Owls at Finch Field at 4:00 Sunday.