On to State: Lion baseball team has the heart of a champion

CL vs. W-SR

The Lions proved they have the heart of a champion in a thrilling extra-inning win over sixth-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock Tuesday, July 23.  With two out and two strikes on the batter, the team rallied to win their District final, 8-6, in nine innings.

The Lions found themselves down 4-0 after five innings of play, but closed the margin to 4-3 with three runs in the top of the sixth.

Lead-off batter Gavin Sheakley walked, then went to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a base hit by Luke Schiller.  With two aboard and no outs Brock Adams hit into a fielder’s choice which scored Sheakley.  Mitch Keeran hit a shot which the Go-Hawks third baseman mishandled, allowing him to reach first in time.  Another error put Brandon Tofte on base and scored Adams, making the score 4-2.  Next, Pete Swenson delivered a single to load the bases. Pressure got the best of W-SR pitcher Jake Belky and he walked Matt Stephany, forcing in Keeran from third and making the score 4-3.  After a pitching change the next two Lions were set down on strikes.

The Go-Hawks somehow managed to stem the tide of Lion momentum with their own rally in the bottom of the sixth.  Two runs on three hits off starter Gavin Sheakley suddenly doubled the score on the Lions, 6-3.  Jerry Kockler came in to relieve Sheakley and got his team out of a jam.

But the Lions weren’t ready to fold.  

Sheakley again led off an inning by getting on base.  This time a base hit to right field set the stage for another comeback.  Schiller also got a hit and Adams walked to load the bases.  With one out, Go-Hawk pitching again fell short.  Pitcher Trey Olmstead walked Tofte, scoring Sheakley, and a ground out by Swenson brought in Schiller.  

With two out and trailing 6-5, the Lions’ chances of advancing were slipping away. 

Matt Stephany stepped to the plate determined to keep the Lions’ dreams of State alive.  With two strikes on him, Stephany made contact and sent the ball to the infield.  Rather than make a play, the Go-Hawks infielder elected to eat the ball, scoring Totfe and tying the game, 6-6.

Kockler retired the Go-Hawks in order in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game into extra innings.

Coach Seth Thompson said he never doubted his team could come back.

“This game really says a lot more about this team than I could ever try to accomplish with words.  To make a comeback like they did against one of the best teams in the state on their home field is pretty amazing, especially under the pressure of playing for a district championship,” said Thompson.  “For five innings Waverly was outplaying us in every aspect of the game, but these kids found a way to stir up a pride of Lions in the sixth inning that were simply relentless and would not allow their season to end on this particular night.”

The Lions loaded the bases again in the top of the eighth with a base hit by Sheakley, a hit batsman and a W-SR error, but no runs were produced.   The Go-hawks were also blanked in the bottom of the frame.

Swenson got the Lions off to a good start in the ninth, blasting a double to the wall.  A sacrifice bunt by Stephany moved Swenson to third and a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Rowdy Yates scored Swenson and broke the tie.  

But the Lions weren’t done there.  Insurance runs were provided by Uhlenhopp, whose sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Zach Tatum to second.  The Go-Hawks intentionally walked Sheakley, then Schiller sent a ground ball up the middle to score Tatum.  An infield single by Adams loaded the bases, but the W-SR center fielder snagged a line drive by Keeran to retire the side.

The Go-Hawks threatened to get something going in the bottom of the ninth after Kockler walked a batter with one out.  A second walk later in the inning loaded the bases with two out, but the senior ace dug deep and recorded a strikeout to end the game.

Kockler got the win, pitching three and two-thirds innings, giving up just one hit, waking two and striking out four.  The win put his record at 10-1 this season.  The starter, Sheakley, gave up eight hits, a walk and struck out three.

Sheakley and Luke Schiller led the way with three hits apiece.  Sheakley also walked three times and stole - Read More Via e-Edition

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