At dusk, it appeared Auburn Mountainview High School’s chances of capturing a first Class 3A West Central District baseball title seemed to be fading with the sunlight.
And somewhere amid nightfall, the Lions found their championship spirit.
Down big early, SPSL 3A regular-season champion Auburn Mountainview tied the game on a suicide squeeze bunt in the seventh inning – then won it, 9-8, an inning later on Joey Cassano’s solo home with two outs.
Since the teams split four games before Saturday, it became the ultimate grudge match on the Lions’ home field – and an exciting one at that.
Peninsula rocked Lions’ starting pitcher Cody Wiseman, who did not make it out of the third inning. And after Shane Hanon’s RBI single to left field, the Seahawks had an 8-0 lead.
Something had to stop the bleeding for Auburn Mountainview. So coach Glen Walker turned to a pair of unsuspecting but talented sophomore relievers, Jared Gray and Justin Marsden.
By no means were they perfect, but considering they spent much of the season on the junior varsity, they were pretty darned impressive throwing shutout baseball.
And after the Lions exploded for seven runs off Seahawks’ starting pitcher Jimmy Ritchie in the third inning, highlighted by home runs from Nick Brooks and Mason Cerrillo, suddenly the Lions were back in it, trailing 8-7.
Alex Weymiller came in to relieve for the Seahawks, and did not allow a hit until Tyler Friis’ single with two outs in the sixth.
But Josh Minton led off the seventh with a double into right center for the Lions, and eventually scored on Cerrillo’s one-out suicide squeeze bunt to the pitcher to tie it at 8-8.
And with two outs in the eighth inning, Cassano thought he would get a high fastball from Weymiller, did and jumped all over the first pitch, sending it over the left-field wall for the game-winner.
Peninsula had 16 hits – all singles – to the Lions’ seven, but stranded seven runners in scoring position.