Steamers win in bottom of ninth on Christopher's hit

By Chic Riebel

The Daily Advance

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EDENTON -- As Nathan Burns slid across the plate with the winning run, the Edenton Steamers exploded from the dugout and raced toward first base to congratulate the hero of the night. That would be Brett Christopher, whose bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Steamers a 2-1 win over the Wilson Tobs Monday night at Hicks Field. Christopher, a left-handed hitting outfielder from the University of the Pacific, didn't do a lot of jumping up and down with his teammates, however. In fact, he looked downright sheepish in the center of the celebration. That might have been because the game's biggest hit was a chopper that traveled less than 30 feet down the third-base line. "Most of the time when you think of a walk-off hit, it's dramatic, a home run or a double in the gap or something," Christopher said. "But a swinging bunt?" In the boxscore, no one will know the difference. It'll look like a gapper to anyone who wasn't there to witness it. And the bottom line is that Christopher delivered in a clutch situation as the Steamers (24-3 second half, 43-11 overall) continue to add to their franchise-record season victory total. The game-winner was hardly a fluke, either. "Well, what I wanted to do when I came up was to to put the ball in play and hit it hard," Christopher said. "But when I had two strikes on me, my approach had to change from hitting the ball hard to just putting it in play. "He gave me a 2-2 slider down and in and I tried to fight it off and it became a swinging bunt. I knew I would be safe because I have good speed, I just wasn't sure if Burns would get in. But he did. And I guess that's all that counts." The walk-off hit made a success of Edenton coach Dirk Kinney's strategy of starting little-used reliever Eddie Perkins and following him with two other relievers in an attempt to rest the remainder of the pitching staff for the Petitt Cup playoffs, which begin Thursday. Perkins, a midseason acquisition who played for the College of The Albemarle the past two years, gave up two hits, a walk and a run in four innings in his first start and longest stint for the Steamers. Jordan Moore pitched the next four innings and Jordan Egan threw the ninth and neither allowed a base runner. "I didn't know I was going to start until Sunday night," said Perkins, who struck out five batters. "Coach told us it was going to be a 'staff night,' which meant he was not going to extend anybody and he was going to use up a few arms so we could keep the bullpen as fresh as possible for the playoffs. "It wasn't anything I hadn't done before. I was a starter all year for COA. I just had to get the mindset right. I came out here with the same mentality I always try to have, to work ahead and get people out. I gave up a run, but I think I did all right. And Jordan Moore and Jordan Egan were awesome." Perkins yielded the run in the first inning, after a two-out walk. The next batter, Ryan Mathews spanked a double that barely eluded Steamers centerfielder Ryan Brenner for the RBI. The Steamers tied the game 1-1 in the fourth when Zach Stewart scored on a throwing error. Edenton, which will be the top seed in the playoffs, closes the regular season Tuesday by hosting the Outer Banks Daredevils, who will come into the finale with a chance to earn the No. 8 seed and become the Steamers' first-round opponent.