TAMPA — In 30 years as Gaither’s baseball coach, Frank Permuy had never experienced the thrill of winning a game with a walk-off grand slam.
In Permuy’s final year at the helm, it’s only fitting that Cowboys slugger Randy Oliva changed that on Friday night against Class 7A, District 8 rival Wiregrass Ranch.
With his team down two and two outs in the seventh inning, the senior delivered the winning slam off reliever James Coviello to give Gaither a 9-7 win over the Bulls and force a four-way tie atop the district standings.
“I’ve been saying the whole year that we haven’t quit,” said Permuy, who announced last April he would retire at the end of this season.
“That was something special. That was definitely special.”
Wiregrass (14-5, 5-3) led 7-4 in the seventh after Austin Drury scored on a wild pitch and Alex Fernandez’s RBI double to leftfield.
But the Cowboys (13-5, 5-3) didn’t back down. With one out, Ronal Perdomo singled home Daniel Martin to pull within two. Then, after Tyler Tyson walked and Jose Cadenas struck out, Oliva knew it was up to him to complete the comeback.
“We just kept on fighting and we never gave up,” said Oliva, 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs.
The Bulls led 3-0 in the third thanks to Michael Campoamor’s three-run homer. But the Cowboys (13-5, 5-3) answered in the bottom of the frame against ace Zach Drury with a two-run shot to left by Oliva.
After the Bulls added two runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Girard and a solo homer by Logan Place, Gaither’s Chris Minor hit a two-RBI single in the sixth to cut the deficit to one.
“I won’t forget this one,” Permuy said. “There have been memorable games here, but that one is going to break it right there. I can’t think of anything better than that.”