2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #6

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. Yesterday’s entry detailed a pair of weekend shutouts. Today’s entry features a few more runs, but also details two separate games…

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6. If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Harold Camping's words to live by.

Harold Camping’s words to live by.

There’s been a ton of e-ink spilled recently in the debate over whether or not “clutch hitting” is a skill that exists. It seems like certain players rise in the clutch, but the statistical evidence to support such a claim is indefinite. Sometimes, it’s simply about the volume of opportunities a player gets – if you don’t bat in the ninth, you can’t win the game on a walkoff. (Yes, duh.)

Is Jimmy Van Ostrand, then, a “clutch” hitter? Was he “clutch” last year? Or did he just happen to come up in big situations? If you all may allow me to answer my questions with a question, well – who the heck knows? Either way, Van Ostrand played in just 21 games for the Chiefs last year, but stepped up with two memorable moments just nine days apart.

On April 14th, Van Ostrand sat on the bench while the Chiefs dropped a 5-2 decision to Lehigh Valley in game one of a doubleheader. In the second game, the former Team Canada Olympian got the start at third base and saw the Chiefs jump out to an early 2-0 lead. Lehigh Valley, however, would end up tying the game while down to its final out in the seventh inning, with a Steve Lerud single off of Erik Davis evening the score at two. In extra innings (shocking that a Chiefs game would make it there, I know), Syracuse struck. Jeff Kobernus opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a single, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt, stole third and stayed put as Chris Marrero and Mike Costanzo walked. After a Zach Walters force out, Van Ostrand punched a single into center field, giving the Chiefs their first walkoff win of the year.

It didn’t do much for the concept of “momentum” in baseball, though. That game stood as the Chiefs’ lone home win until April 23rd, with Syracuse dropping the other two games against Lehigh Valley and four straight versus Buffalo en route to a 1-6 home record heading into a series against Rochester. And that game – surprise! – went into extra innings as well, with the Chiefs coming back from an early 5-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth.

Once more, Van Ostrand had a chance to be the hero. Ninth inning, 6-6, runner on second, two outs…a chance to be the hero!

…and Van Ostrand flied out to center field.

The Red Wings responded with an 11th-inning run, and two outs in the bottom of the inning later, all hope seemed lost for the Chiefs. But after a Mike Costanzo walk, Will Rhymes drilled a triple into the right-field corner, scoring Costanzo all the way from first to tie the game once more. And after Micah Owings was intentionally walked, Van Ostrand stepped to the plate with another chance to claim victory!

…and he grounded out to first.

The baseball gods, however, would not let this one by decided a mere mortal – and in the 13th, once more, the baseball Hercules found himself at the center of the action once again. A bunt single, a sac bunt + error, a sac bunt, an intentional walk, and the bases were loaded with one out against Mike O’Connor, with Van Ostrand – who was, by the way, 0 for 6 at this point – had a chance to win, again…

Thus concluded perhaps the most spectacular 1-for-7 day in Chiefs history, giving Syracuse two home wins – both of which featured Van Ostrand walkoffs. He’d play just seven more Syracuse games, spending the rest of the season in Double-A Harrisburg, but he left an unforgettable mark behind.

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Next week, we begin the Top Five moments from the Chiefs’ 2013 season. It’s been fun seeing your responses so far – keep them coming here on the blog, @ChiefsRadio or at my email address, kbrown@syracusechiefs.com.

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