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Archive for Friday, May 12, 2006

Walk-off winners

Lions claw, but Firebirds soar in end

May 12, 2006

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John Novotny took one last look at the scoreboard, slowly shaking his head once again in disbelief.

The junior couldn't figure out where it had gone wrong in Free State's 6-5 victory Thursday night, but he still managed to see everything the most clearly.

"Wherever my career goes, this is definitely going to be one of the greatest baseball games I've ever played in," Novotny said. "Our team ... we executed. We did everything we had to do to win a baseball game.

"We just didn't win."

The Lions certainly didn't lose it either.

On a night when everything seemed to go wrong for Free State, the team still managed to rally from a 5-3 deficit in the final inning with clutch hitting.


Free State High players Andy Petz (20) and Brett Lisher (14) celebrate the winning run against Lawrence High. The Firebirds scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, beating the Lions, 6-5, Thursday night at Hoglund Ballpark.

Free State High players Andy Petz (20) and Brett Lisher (14) celebrate the winning run against Lawrence High. The Firebirds scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning, beating the Lions, 6-5, Thursday night at Hoglund Ballpark.

With one out in the seventh, a Lorenzo Ricketts single and Andy Petz walk set the table for designated hitter Ben Wilson.

"There's a reason Ben's in the lineup," Free State coach Mike Hill said, "because he's a pitch away from doing something really special every time he steps up."

After falling into an 0-2 hole, the junior slapped his bat in disgust after fouling off a hittable pitch on the inside corner.

"It was a fastball, and I was just was out in front a little bit," Wilson said. "It was frustrating because that's been a problem for me."

He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

Wilson smoked the next fastball down the left-field line, scoring Ricketts with courtesy runner John Sneegas trailing behind.


Lawrence High baseball coach Brad Stoll, right, argues a call with an umpire in the sixth inning. LHS fell to Free State, 6-5, Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Lawrence High baseball coach Brad Stoll, right, argues a call with an umpire in the sixth inning. LHS fell to Free State, 6-5, Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Shortstop Marc Albers' relay beat the runner to the plate, but catcher Brett Sims couldn't hold on as Sneegas slid in safely with the tying run.

Meanwhile, Wilson read the play correctly, hustling in safely to move the all-important go-ahead run to third.

Jordan Dreiling delivered from the eight-hole seconds later, lining a shot past the drawn-in infield for the game-winner.

"It was a big-time game in a big-time environment," Dreiling said. "The whole town was here. It's good that we came away with it."

Until the frantic finish, it was Lawrence High that had put itself in prime position for the victory.

After losing the first match to Free State, 12-1 last month, LHS came back by controlling most of Thursday's outing.

Daniel Parker's two-run double extended Lawrence's lead to 3-0 in the fourth.

The Lions even responded after Free State tied it in the fifth.

Free State High outfielder Travis Ice misplays a fly ball allowing a Lawrence High to score a run during the second inning.

Free State High outfielder Travis Ice misplays a fly ball allowing a Lawrence High to score a run during the second inning.

Michael Sickinger led off the top of the seventh with a triple off the glove of Free State centerfielder Nick Ayre. One pitch after a failed squeeze attempt, Novotny lined a run-scoring double down the left-field line to make it 4-3. Senior Sean Muder blooped a single just over second baseman Travis Ice to give LHS a two-run advantage.

"Every senior on the program did something good tonight," LHS coach Brad Stoll said. "I'm beyond proud of them. I told them to walk out of here with their chest as far out as they can stick it."

The Lions even used trickery to get out of a jam in the fifth.

Free State had two on with two out, but the Lions ended the rally when Marc Albers used the hidden-ball trick - implemented by assistant coach Kyle Kilgo - to tag out Kyle Cross at second.

Both teams will enter sub-state play next week.

"I grabbed every senior on the way out, looked them dead in the eye, and said, 'We're not done,'" Stoll said.

Hill said both teams should benefit from Thursday night's thriller.

"The fans didn't pay, but I can certainly say they got their money's worth," Hill said. "That was a great high school baseball game."

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