Grant Hoover walked to the pitching mound in the top of the fifth inning Friday in Dover. His white pants and red jersey were already smeared with dirt, evidence of the work put in while running the bases and playing center field.
Still, there was more work ahead in this tightly played YAIAA baseball game.
Hoover struck out his first batter and later led off the bottom of the fifth with a bunt single. Both were a sign of things to come as Dover rallied for a 3-2 win against the Division I leaders from Dallastown (6-4, 5-2).
"He's a nice guy to have at the end of a game."
Nice enough to keep a 2-0 deficit as Dover closed the gap. Hoover pitched 22/3 innings. He struck out seven, including the side in the sixth and seventh. Only twice did the baseball touch anyone but Hoover and catcher Mitch Slater during Dallastown's final nine at-bats. One was a Zach Luman groundout after Hoover took over pitching, and the other was a Jon Snyder single in the sixth.
"He was hitting his spots, moving the ball around," Dallastown pitching coach Casey Markey said. "Nice lefty. Nice, crisp ball. I was impressed."
Offensively, Hoover did just as much. He finished 1-for-3 at the plate, which included his sixth-inning knock that broke past the first baseman on an error and led to the tying and go-ahead runs. Hoover also stole three bases, adding more dirt to his uniform as rain began to fall. He was credited with one RBI, walked once and also scored once.
That run came in the sixth, when his bunt toward third base was just soft enough that Luman couldn't throw out the speedy leadoff hitter.
"I saw the third baseman back," Hoover said, "and I thought, 'Let me lay one down here and see if I can get on base and get a run in.'"
Just as Hoover reached first base, rain began to fall on a cloudy afternoon behind Dover Intermediate School. The junior, who's been a starter since he was a freshman, admitted a sense of urgency came with the sudden shower.
"With the rain and everything, the adrenaline was kind of pumping," Hoover said. "You never know, with the storm coming in, if it's going to downpour and the game's going to be called."
Dover (4-6, 3-5 Division II) hadn't registered a hit off Wildcats starter Tanner Forry until Hoover's fifth-inning plate appearance. Dallastown also had just one error at the time, but its second soon followed and allowed Hoover to cut the score to 2-1.
The Wildcats finished with four miscues on the day. Their final two both came on Hoover's tying and go-ahead at-bat in the sixth, as John Hodgson and Curtis Harman both ran home for a joyous turn of events for their side.
A contrast from how the season has gone, the Eagles had just one YAIAA win entering the week. And, despite a losing record, they're only a game off the Division II lead, which is held by Northeastern and Kennard-Dale.
"We haven't been in baseball games where it's like, 'Let's get two guys on and get a hit and we're in this,'" Eckenroth said. "Now that you start feeling what a baseball game is like, you can see the excitement."
DOVER 3, DALLASTOWN 2
Dallastown 011 000 0 -- 2 6 4
Dover 000 012 x -- 3 2 0
Dallastown, Tanner Forry, James Striebig (6), Zach Luman (6) and Bryce Starner; Dover, Stephen Jacobson, Grant Hoover (5) and Mitch Slater. SO-BB -- Dt, Forry 5-6, Striebig 0-2, Luman 0-0; Do, Jacobson 1-2, Hoover 7-0. W -- Hoover. L -- Striebig.