Senior Ryan Pendleton seemed to have authored a play he would remember forever.
With a fierce pitching dual taking place between Rosmanâ€™s Shane Galloway and North Lincolnâ€™s Josh Belk, Pendletonâ€™s solo homer in the top of the fifth inning over the 305-foot sign in right-center appeared to be the game winner.
Unfortunately for the Knightsâ€™ contingent of fans who made the three-hour trip, it wasnâ€™t. The Tigers scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Galloway led off the bottom of the seventh with a bloop single over the shortstop. A wild pitch that bounced behind catcher Devin Borders looked to allow plenty of time for Galloway to advance to second.
Borders had other ideas, as he alertly located the ball and snapped the ball to shortstop Josh Belk for what appeared to be an out. With Galloway ruled safe, Shane Whitmore attempted to bunt Galloway to third.
Closer Alex Loftin fielded the ball cleanly and threw to third to nab Galloway. Once again on a bang-bang play, the Tigers benefited, with Whitmore reaching at first and Galloway safely on third.
Time and again the Knights made the right decision but werenâ€™t awarded for their efforts. In another example, Loftin threw behind Whitmore at first base and got him by a half step, but once again the call didnâ€™t go in favor of North Lincoln.
With no outs, Tyler Hall hit one back to Loftin. Loftin wheeled to find no one covering at second base, thus not allowing him to turn a potential double play.
The way the zany seventh inning went it was almost fitting that what appeared to be an easy-groundball out turned into the game winner.
Josh Riddle, who was 0-for-2 in his previous at-bats, sent a grounder toward second baseman Jeremy Grove.
The only problem was the ball hit the lip of the pitcherâ€™s mound and sent the ball into right field, allowing both Galloway and Whitmore to score and sealing an improbable victory.
Tigersâ€™ head coach Kirk Dotson agreed that both pitchers deserved to come away with the win.
â€œItâ€™s one game where we should have lights here to where somebody, by God, wins it,â€ said Dotson. â€œIâ€™m happy for my kids, but I feel terrible for them. They got a good baseball team.
â€œWe do too, but you hate to see that â€” I mean my heart canâ€™t stand it,â€ he said.
Belk matched Galloway pitch-for-pitch, inning-for-inning. Galloway, being a southpaw, was essentially a mirror of Belk, who is a right-hander.
Both pitchers threw a lively fastball, a nasty curve and an occasional change-up to keep their opponents off balance.
The result was seven strikeouts for Belk and 11 strikeouts for Galloway. Both also demonstrated excellent control, walking two apiece and both allowed only two hits.
â€œMy arm was hurting a little bit before the game, but other than that coach helped me and got me real good and loose and I was good to go by game time,â€ Galloway (9-1, 2.00 ERA) said.
Knightsâ€™ head coach Sean Andrews was forced to remove Belk after six complete innings of two-hit baseball at the Belkâ€™s request.
â€œHe (Josh) was tired. He told me in the fifth that he had one more in him then he was done. Alâ€™s been our closer, heâ€™s closed in different situations all season, itâ€™s just rough,â€ he said.
Andrews felt there were a couple of plays that couldâ€™ve gone in his teamâ€™s favor.
â€œHe tagged him before he even got to the bag. These kids played their butts off today,â€ said Andrews. â€œJosh pitched a heck of a game and thatâ€™s not much else to say, except I hate to look at these kids and know the seasonâ€™s over after all theyâ€™ve been through.â€
Belk, who felt he was only 80 percent after the sixth, was miffed by the loss.
â€œI think thatâ€™s the first time weâ€™ve come together as a team and not made any errors in the field. Devin made one that wasnâ€™t costly, but itâ€™s kind of amazing how we can make defensive errors and win, then come here and not make any and then lose,â€ he said.
Of the bad hop that led to the game-winner, Andrews said, â€œ11-15 is definitely a rough year and that would be just our luck.â€
â€œI just knew we werenâ€™t going to lose. Once we got that leadoff man on, I knew something good was going to happen and it did. Iâ€™m so happy,â€ Galloway said.
North Lincoln 000 010 0â€”1 2 1
Rosman 000 000 2â€”2 4 1
by John Mark Brooks