WINTHROP — When Monmouth pitcher Sam Calder stepped back atop the hill to begin the seventh inning Monday, his head was still spinning.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’m just thankful that my team can put in five runs in one inning like it’s nothing.”

What happened was that Calder went from would-be hard-luck loser to locking down his own save, finishing off a 5-4 Monmouth victory over rival Winthrop in Mountain Valley Conference baseball action. The hard-luck loss, instead, went to Rambler ace Andrew Foster, who pitched well enough to win — but didn’t.

Calder and Foster cruised relatively unscathed through the first four and a half innings of a scoreless ballgame. But then Winthrop (7-4) scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to snap the deadlock. A pair of infield singles to open the inning turned into a pair of runs courtesy of a Matt Beck double to left-center, and then Beck came around to score when freshman catcher Braden Branagan dropped a base hit down the third-base line.

Foster set Monmouth (8-2) down in order in the sixth, finishing off the frame by catching Calder looking at a called third-strike fastball over the outside corner.

Calder worked around a couple of two-out baserunners in the sixth to keep it a three-run game, and he headed for the dugout believing he’d thrown a solid game that just came up a bit short.

“We had the same thing happen last year with them at our place,” said Monmouth left fielder Seth McKenney, who went 3 for 4 with a double. “Coach just said, ‘Let’s go out here and score all these runs in the seventh inning and win this thing.’”

Easier said than done, particularly against Foster, who’d given up just three hits — all singles — prior to the seventh.

An error, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for Monmouth with one out, and then No. 9 hitter Luke Harmon squared up a fastball and sent it skipping to the left-center field fence to bring in two runs. Still up a run, Winthrop coach John Novak had Foster intentionally walk leadoff hitter Hayden Fletcher to get to McKenney with the bases loaded.

“That kind of puts a smile on your face and gets you going a little bit,” McKenney said of the free pass to Fletcher. “I’m an aggressive hitter, and I’ll hit that thing down the middle — try to drive it as far as you can. I didn’t drive it as far as I could, but…”

But McKenney did lace it to left to bring in both Hunter Frost and Harmon with the tying and go-ahead runs. Matt Marquis added a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.

“I blame this on me. I’ve got to be able to finish off the game,” Foster said. “I feel like sometimes you try too hard to throw a strike, and you end up not throwing strikes at all. I kind of held off a little bit, and I realized toward the end of the inning I had to throw the way I’d been throwing the whole game, and I was able to hit the strike zone again.”

Brayden Stubbert gave Winthrop late life in the home half of the seventh with an RBI single to right-center. The game — and a comeback bid of the Ramblers’ own — ended when Stubbert was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit into a double.

“For me, it’s always about the next pitch, and I just try to go with it,” Calder said of going back out for the seventh with a lead he didn’t see coming. “I take what the game gives me. I was going as long as I could.”

“We hit the ball hard all game. Usually in any baseball game, if you hit the ball hard consistently, you’re going to end up winning, plain and simple,” Monmouth coach Steve Palleschi said. “(Foster) did a fantastic job in high-pressure situations. But you just tell the guys to stick with their approach and stay aggressive early in the count. The goal is to hit hard. If you hit it hard somewhere, you’re going to win.”

Will Grant had a pair of singles for Winthrop in the loss.

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