No longer will Andy Petz's teammates tell him to feel like a woman.
Before Thursday's sub-state games at Free State High, the Firebird seniors pulled a prank on the sophomore catcher, changing his walk-to-the-plate music to Shania Twain's tune, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"
But in the bottom of the eighth inning in Free State's 14-13 triumph over pesky Topeka High, Petz delivered a game-winning hit and may have applied senior-prank repellent. Petz's smoking grounder into center field scored winning pitcher Scott Heitshusen and sealed the Firebirds' third straight trip to the Class 6A state tournament.
"I was just trying to get the ball deep into the outfield to get a tag-up to win the game," a relieved Petz said. "Not quite the gigantic hit I would have liked to have to win the game, but it got the job done."
Topeka had no intentions of bowing to the Firebird juggernaut. The Trojans overcame an 8-1 deficit in their afternoon game against Emporia for a 9-8, eight-inning victory - a more stressful game than the 13-1 beatdown Free State threw on Leavenworth in a slow five-inning contest.
The Trojans proved they were for real by answering Free State's four-run first inning with a five-spot in the second.
Free State answered with its own five-tally spurt, sparked by a two-run single from Jake Hoover and an RBI double by Lorenzo Ricketts.
Hoover largely was responsible for the high-scoring early innings on both ends. Usually dominant, he surrendered seven runs in his five innings pitched, but made up for it at the plate, driving in five runs in his first three at-bats.
Free State's final outburst came in a four-run fifth that was kickstarted by a two-run single up the middle from Brett Lisher.
Then, Topeka pulled out its best Rocky Balboa impersonation.
Travis Blankenship, who relieved Hoover after five innings, allowed four runs to start the seventh to make the score 13-11. Then, facing Topeka catcher A.J. Levanduski with a 1-2 count, he hit him on the side, clearing the path for Max Shelby to even the score with a two-run hit.
Free State coach Mike Hill had seen enough, and summoned Heitshusen to the mound from right field and called in his entire team.
"We talked about believing in one another, and they didn't get this far being individuals," Hill said. "Really, there wasn't a whole lot to say."
Heitshusen did all the talking with an eight-pitch performance that got his team out of a first-and-third, one-out jam. And, thanks to two strikeouts and a huge defensive play by Ricketts at first, the Firebirds set the scene for the bottom of the eighth.
Heitshusen led off by grounding back to the pitcher, Thomas Charay, who threw wide right to first, allowing Heitshusen to take second. After Cory Cooper placed a perfect bunt down the first-base line, Petz needed just one pitch to book Free State's trip Friday to Hoglund Ballpark.
"I hope I don't have a cholesterol test in the next 24 hours," Hill said. "It's something I would have never imagined in a million years."
As for Petz, will he keep the Twain track around next weekend out of superstition?
"I don't know," he said with a chuckle. "I'll have to think about that one."