John Rooney needed just eight pitches, well out of the strike zone, to put the Bishop Ludden baseball team's undefeated season in jeopardy.
But he needed just one mighty swing to redeem himself.
Rooney's towering three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Gaelic Knights a dramatic 7-6 victory over Skaneateles Wednesday afternoon in a game that had enough excitement and intrigue to last a full season.
Entering the top of the seventh inning, Ludden led 4-2, with Rooney on the mound in relief of Matt Pirro after the sophomore gave Ludden six solid innings of work.
All Rooney could do, though, was walk Jared Amory and Jake Carvalho, not throwing a strike to either of them. Instantly, head coach Ted Klamm replaced Rooney with Matt Weeks, but the damage had been rendered.
Owen Stokes-Cawley reached on an infield hit to load the bases, and Zach Augustine cleared them with a double to the right-field wall, scoring three runs as Skaneateles seized a 5-4 lead. Moments later, Nick Pesarchick singled Augustine home.
So as the bottom of the seventh began, Ludden trailed, 6-4, and looked to be in more trouble when Pesarchick forced Ryan O'Kane into a groundout.
But when no. 9 hitter Aaron Maher singled and James Murray walked to put the tying runs on base, Rooney stepped up. To this point, he had grounded out, walked and flied out, his gaudy batting average dipping from close to the .500 mark.
Now, though, Rooney had a chance to make it all better -- and on the first pitch he saw, Rooney crushed it well over the left-field fence. Just like that, Ludden had its 12th consecutive victory, and the Gaelic Knights' players mobbed Rooney at home plate as the stunned Lakers walked off the field.