After three hours of baseball, it came down to one simple bounce.
St. Mary Central Catholic traveled across town to Perkins Monday in the Sandusky Bay Conference opener, but through 11-plus innings, neither team had put a crooked number up on the scoreboard.
But finally, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Perkins' Quintin Cantelli lined a two-out single to right field, and Perkins coach Ray Neill made the decision to wave home baserunner Devin Dubbert, who had been on second base.
SMCC catcher Brandon Green was in solid position to make the tag, and initially it appeared Dubbert wasn't going to make it. But just at the cut of the grass, the throw home bounced to Green's right, and he had to reach over a step to field it, which didn't allow him the chance to put a tag on Dubbert for the game's only run.
With the win, Perkins improved to 9-0 overall, while SMCC fell for the first time this season, dropping to 5-1.
Both Neill and SMCC coach Ben Stover knew they were part of a rare set of circumstances, as 1-0 games, or games that extend five innings deep in extra innings, are uncommon.
“You had five guys who stepped in the middle of the diamond today and commanded the strike zone,” Neill said. “They were simply better than all the guys who stepped in there offensively. Both teams played pretty good defense. Even the last play, that was a very good throw and the ball just skipped … finally the baseball gods said, 'Hey, it's getting late, we're hungry and want to go home for supper so we're getting out of here.'
“It was a good play by their right fielder and it wasn't the fault of their catcher. The ball must have just hit right at the edge of the grass and the dirt there, and it skipped, and fortunately for us, it skipped the right way. I knew if it was a good throw he was going to be out by ten feet. But at that point, we were going to make them make a play and again, fortunately for us, it skipped on the catcher and he didn't have a chance.”
For Stover, there wasn't much to add one way or the other in a game that featured just the single run on six hits combined.
“Just a good high school baseball game. Both teams had good pitching, and being in the 12th inning, you knew it was going to come down to one play,” Stover said. “I'm proud of the kids. Both teams played hard, but somebody had to win.
“We had some kids step up defensively today. A lot of those kids have played since they were freshmen and had been here before.”
SMCC's best chance to score came in the eighth, as it had a runner at third with two outs. Trevor Fitzthum hit a 3-2 pitch to second base, and Chase Boyer had a hard time with the throw and it went low. However, Cantelli was able to extend and snare the ball out of the dirt just before Fitzthum arrived for the third out in the inning.
But from there, the Pirates' Matt Clark was phenomenal on the mound. Cameron Waldock had pitched the first 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, and Clark came in to throw the last 5 1/3.
He struck out the side in both the 10th and 11th innings, and at one point struck out seven consecutive batters. He allowed just one hit, as did Waldock.
“He threw well, but everyone did today,” Stover said of Clark. “Obviously this is a tough loss, but I'm probably not alone when I say I think it will be a close race in the SBC like it is most years.
“There are a lot of good teams in the conference, and hopefully we're inching closer to being one of those teams too. I'm proud of the kids today.”
It appeared Perkins was going to end the game in the 10th, as Quinten Harrington opened with a double down the left field line. But Stover ordered pitcher Ryan Myers, who followed both Brett St. Clair (six innings) and Fitzthum (one inning), to intentionally walk the Pirates' top hitter, Seth Bryant.
But with runners at first and second and nobody out, Myers got Cantelli to strike out and Luke Fraley to hit into an inning-ending double play to extend the game.
In the 11th, Caleb Severance made an impressive diving catch in centerfield that ended any chance of the Pirates getting yet another runner in scoring position.
“We had a handful of chances with guys in scoring position, a few more than they did,” Neill said. “I thought eventually that might come back to bite us, but it didn't. Just a great baseball game, but at least for everyone here it was 65 degrees and warm instead of 35 and very, very cold.”
While no one expects a 1-0 game in 12 innings, Neill said there may be plenty more low-scoring SBC matchups, especially in cooler weather.
“I don't know that games are going to go this deep, but there will be a lot of well-pitched games in this conference because there are four or five teams that have some strong pitchers,” he said. “Maybe when it warms up a bit more the hitting will knock in a few more runs. But today was simply an outstanding game played out of both dugouts.”