The Craftsman Union Capahas received a pair of rugged challenges Sunday -- but were still able to sweep a tightly contested doubleheader from the visiting St. Louis Golden Spikes.
Gary Gilbert's walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Capahas a 7-4 win in the opener. The Capahas then scored four runs in the sixth inning of the second game to break a tie and they held on for a 12-11 victory.
The pair of triumphs at Capaha Field pushed Craftsman Union's record to 16-1.
"Those were two close, exciting ballgames," Capahas manager Jess Bolen said. "That second game was a typical aluminum bat game."
The Capahas use wood bats virtually the entire season but Bolen said, "The guys wanted to swing aluminum once. It makes a big difference."
Craftsman Union actually went to aluminum in its final regulation at-bat of the opener after the Golden Spikes had rallied with four runs in the top of the seventh to grab a 4-3 lead.
"I told the guys early in the year that if we're losing in the last inning, we'll use aluminum and give us a chance to win," Bolen said.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Wade Hansford was hit by a pitch. With two outs, Lance Seasor singled and Dave Lawson walked to load the bases.
Up stepped Gilbert. He pulled a pitch way beyond the right-field fence to end the contest.
"I've never hit a walk-off home run in my life, let alone a grand slam," Gilbert said. "I thought we had it in the seventh, but they put a few hits together and came back."
Of discarding wood and going to aluminum in the seventh, Gilbert said, "We just wanted to try and put something together. Jess made the decision."
The rally made a winner of Kyle Perry, who was making his second start after recently joining the Capahas following his junior season at Murray State.
Perry was dominant through six innings as he carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh before the Golden Spikes rallied with four runs on five hits. Perry finished with an eight-hitter that featured 13 strikeouts and no walks.
"Perry really threw well most of the game but they got to him some in the seventh," Bolen said.
The Capahas had just six first-game hits. Gilbert led the way with three and he drove in five runs.
Craftsman Union was again outhit in the second game, 16-13, and trailed 3-0 after two innings. The Capahas grabbed an 8-5 lead after four innings but the contest was tied 8-8 entering the bottom of the sixth.
The Capahas used five hits to score four times and go ahead 12-8. Nathan Baker, Lawson and Steve Kress all had doubles in the frame while Seasor and Josh Eftink added singles. Seasor, Lawson, Eftink and Tom Bolen drove in the runs.
But the Capahas had to hold on in the seventh as the Golden Spikes rallied with three runs -- one earned -- and had the bases loaded when pitcher Justin Simpher threw out Chris Wilson on a ground ball to secure the victory.
Simpher hurled the final two innings for the win, allowing five hits. Starter Ricky Pecaut gave up eight runs (seven earned) and 11 hits in five innings.
Lawson had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and four RBIs. Seasor had three hits and three RBIs. Baker tripled and doubled.
For the day, Gilbert and Seasor both had four hits. Gilbert delivered six RBIs and Lawson added five.
Jay Davis had six hits on the day, including three doubles, to lead the visitors. Wilson and Kit Crooks both homered in the second game.
The Capahas return to action Wednesday night, visiting the Southern Illinois Merchants.