The West Lincoln Rebels entered the game against the East Lincoln Mustangs having lost both season meetings.
To say they were hungry would be an understatement. Tuesdayâ€™s game was a game neither team shouldâ€™ve had to lose.
It was a battle of wills and a battle of desire, with both teams not willing to give an inch. Fans that had the opportunity to be there, saw 11 innings of Lincoln Co. baseball. They also saw the Rebels win 7-6 in 11 innings.
With the bleachers full and hill half-full, Payden Houser was hit by a pitch to begin the top of the 11th. Junior Greyson Schram, who entered the game in the third, struck out Heath Cole.
Schram then buckled down and got senior leadoff hitter Daniel Scronce to ground out. With Dustin Hester up to bat, a passed ball put Houser into scoring position.
Hester took full advantage of the opportunity hitting a blooper over the second baseman into shallow right field. The hit was enough for the speedy Houser to score, giving the Rebels a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the 11th.
The game-winning hit is Hesterâ€™s first on the varsity level. He admitted Schram caught him off guard with the full-count pitch.
â€œIt felt great to get the game-winning hit. I got up there, had a full-count and I thought he was going to throw me a fastball, and he threw me a curveball. I just poked it into right field,â€ he said.
Jake Black walked with no out to begin the inning for the home Mustangs. Cody Finger sacrificed Black to second.
Freshman southpaw Jake Watts then struck out Logan Taylor. Russell Mahaffey walked to give the Mustangs men on first and second, but like so many times they could not take advantage, as the next batter struck out to end the game.
The Mustangs had the bases loaded three times, but was only able to come away with two runs. They left 16 runners stranded.
â€œYouâ€™re always disappointed after a loss, but Iâ€™m not disappointed with the guys. I thought they played well. We had a chance early in the game with the bases loaded to make the score probably 6-0 and we didnâ€™t capitalize on that opportunity. Another opportunity with the bases loaded, we didnâ€™t capitalize on,â€ Mustangsâ€™ head coach Matt Neville said.
â€œThe bottom of the order set the table in order for us to get a win all night long and we just couldnâ€™t get the run in. We just got to learn to make plays when theyâ€™re given to us,â€ he added.
Rebelsâ€™ head coach Allan Chapman believes his teamâ€™s previous experience paid off for them in this game.
â€œItâ€™s a great performance by both teams. I mean, Iâ€™m just proud of my kids. We told them this is the eighth out of 11 games itâ€™s been either extra innings or one-run and we kept telling them one-run games make you champions,â€ he said.
â€œWeâ€™ve been in that situation before time-after-time,â€ he added.
East Lincoln surged out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The big blow of the inning was a two-run line drive homerun to right center by Schram. Trent Hovis hit a liner to right to score Logan Taylor.
Daniel Smith, who came in for injured starter Ryan Rhodes, with the bases loaded got out of it unscathed with a strikeout, to prevent further damage.
Junior Chris Henderson hit a solo homerun in the top of the second to left. Henderson did the damage again in the third, lacing a two-RBI double.
Daniel Smith followed his big hit with one of his ownâ€”crushing a fastball to dead center for a three-run homerun to give the Rebels a 6-3 lead.
Smith felt he was going to receive a fastball.
â€œIt felt good. It was right in the zone. That was my spot. Oh yeah, I could pretty much tell what was coming when it came out of his hand,â€ he said.
The Mustangs, after scoring in the fourth and fifth, tied the game 6-6 on a perfect squeeze bunt by Finger in the bottom of the sixth.
Schram, who is batting near .500 on the season, went 3-for-6 with three RBIs to lead the Mustangs. He also pitched 8 2/3 innings, striking out 10 and allowing four earned runs.
Other top performances for East were: Hovis who went 2-for-4 and was hit by a pitch twice. Jesse Cadenhead and Black walked three times.
Hester paced the Rebels, going 3-for-6 with one RBI. Henderson went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Jonathan Wise went 2-for-4 and Houser was 1-for-2 with two walks and was hit by a pitch.
Watts earned the victory for West Lincoln throwing six innings, striking out five and allowing no earned runs.
The game lasted four hours.
The Rebels will face Lincolnton, who defeated North Lincoln 9-7 in a game that neared 1 a.m. in tonightâ€™s championship game. by John Mark Brooks