WINTHROP — Down for most of two games, the Winthrop baseball team saved its best for when the weather was at its worst.

Bennett Brooks’ two-run single in the sixth inning broke a tie and helped the Ramblers rally from four runs down to beat Hall-Dale, 8-4, salvaging a split of a doubleheader between the Mountain Valley Conference rivals after the Bulldogs earned a 2-0 win in the first game.

There was an unmistakable air of relief as the Rambler players left their wet and muddy field after the final out. The rally had prevented them from falling to .500, and instead allowed them to keep pace with the top teams in a tightening Class C South race. Winthrop (7-5) currently sits fourth in the standings, while Hall-Dale (9-5) is second.

“It’s huge. This division’s really close and we need all the points we can get,” Brooks said. “Getting at least one of the wins was what we needed to do today.”

Winthrop missed its chance during a dry first game, and a steady drizzle had broken out by the time Hall-Dale began the second game with a three-run first inning and added to the advantage with another run in the third. The rain had started intensifying when Winthrop pushed across a run in the fourth and two in the fifth, and was hard enough to turn the infield and pitcher’s mound into a muddy slip ‘n slide by the time the Ramblers came to bat trailing 4-3 in the top of the sixth.

Carson Camick started the frame with a single, and after a walk and an out, Jackson Ladd smacked a single to left, scoring Camick to even the score at 4. Ladd stole second on the next pitch, and Brooks drilled a single to right, scoring Ryan Baird and Ladd to make it 6-4.

“I was struggling at the plate recently, hadn’t had a hit in a while,” Brooks said. “So my biggest goal was just getting the ball on the bat and being able to put it on the outfield grass.”

Winthrop added two more runs on Cameron Gaghan’s single in the seventh, providing starter Jacob Hickey with all the support he would need. The senior struggled early, allowing three runs in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Cole Lockhart (a two-run hit) and Alec Byron and another run in the third on Byron’s RBI single, but was steady down the stretch, allowing just two hits over the final four innings even while dealing with steady rain and a mound that began to fall apart as the game went on.

“It’s all mental,” said Hickey, who pitched all seven innings and struck out five. “Matty (Ingram) did a great job behind the plate calling the game, I just threw the pitches to his glove. Just tried to control the pitches, you know, it’s sloppy conditions so it’s not necessarily going to be the easiest thing to control the ball.”

Winthrop got its rally started in the fourth inning when Antonio Meucci singled, stole two bases and came home when the throw to third went into left field. The Ramblers tacked on two more on Ingram’s two-run triple to deep left in the fifth, setting the stage for the sixth inning’s dramatics.

“It’s a really big win. … Anytime you can take a team that’s ahead of you in the Heals and take their points, that’s a good thing,” Winthrop coach Marc Fortin said. “We try to stay positive no matter what, and one of the things we talk about is picking each other up. … We had some guys have some lousy at-bats all game, then come through with a key hit.”

It was one that got away for the Bulldogs, but Hall-Dale — and starting pitcher Dean Jackman — didn’t let the win escape its grasp in the first game. The junior shut the Winthrop hitters down, striking out 11 and allowing only two hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“The key was definitely, lower in the lineup, straight fastballs. They couldn’t really keep up at that point,” Jackman said. “For the upper parts in the lineup I just had to mix in the curveball, and just fire hard and hit my spots in the corner, which I did.”

Hall-Dale scored a pair of unearned runs off Greg Fay (seven innings, three hits, three strikeouts) — one in the first when Akira Warren reached on an error and came home on a wild cutoff throw after a Lockhart single, and another in the third when Josh Nadeau reached on a dropped third strike, stole second and came home on a Warren single.

Jackman reached his pitch limit in the seventh, however, and the Ramblers nearly rallied back with two outs after Lockhart came on in relief. Runners stood on first and second when Brooks rapped a grounder up the middle, only for Jacob Brown to snag the ball on a dive and flip to shortstop Byron for the final out.

“Going into the last week of baseball here, we have some really good competition, Winthrop being one of those teams,” coach Bob Sinclair said. “We had to play some really good baseball, seven complete innings of baseball, to win ballgames. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that in the second game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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