Lancers walk off with win in sectional opener

LAKEVILLE — It took longer than planned, but it was well worth it.
Behind the arm and bat of Justin Baker, as well as three two-out rallies, the LaVille Lancers defeated the Fremont Eagles, 4-3, in nine innings at Newton Park to open Sectional 35 of the Class 2A high school boys baseball playoffs.
The Lancers now play the Central Noble today at 6 p.m. Bremen faces Westview in the other semifinal contest and will start around 8. The championship game is slated for noon on Memorial Day.
“I don’t know where to start,” said LaVille head coach Dan Jones after watching his team secure the thrilling victory on a bases-loaded, full count, two-out walk to sophomore Dalton Sauer in the bottom of the ninth. “In the past we’ve been known to mentally collapse, but this time we did a really good job of staying together and having mental toughness, fighting all of the way.”
It looked like it was going to be a short and snappy game after Trenton Priser hit a two-run single with two outs in the first inning and Baker was making it stand up while cruising along with a three-hit shutout through four innings.
“Going in with a lead after the first inning you knew you had that momentum, but then a couple of things didn’t go our way,” added Jones, whose squad evened its season mark at 12-12 with the win.
Fremont tied it in the top of the fifth frame, but the Lancers quickly regained the lead in the bottom half — this time on Baker’s two-strike, two-out RBI single.
“We’ve struggled with protecting the plate, but we have gotten a lot better,” Jones said. “We’ve done a good job of putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the defense.”
This lead was short-lived however as the Eagles put together another run in the sixth and the score was knotted at 3-all.
The Lancers had a good chance to win it in the seventh, but Quentin Herbster’s screaming line drive with two outs and the bases loaded went right to Fremont’s shortstop. In the eighth LaVille again had a runner in scoring position, but James Whiteman’s high fly ball in the late afternoon sun somehow found the glove of the Eagles’ right fielder to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Baker continued to keep Fremont out of the scoring column and there was no way he was coming out.
“He’s been our No. 1 pitcher all year. He’s our senior leader,” Jones said. “He threw, let’s just say, over an amount that I wanted him to throw, but there wasn’t a kid on the team that I wanted to have the ball more and who wanted to have the ball more than Justin Baker.”
The senior right-hander ended up throwing 144 pitches, striking out nine, while walking just two. More importantly, he lasted long enough for one final rally, one that he played a big part in.
After two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth, Baker tripled. Herbster walked on four pitches, then Priser also walked after going to a full count. With the bases loaded, the young Sauer stepped to the plate and managed a walk-off walk after some tense moments.
“If you know Dalton, he was thinking about a lot,” Jones said about the game-ending sequence. “He has a problem with thinking too much, but now that he got that done and over with maybe he’ll be more relaxed in a situation like that. It was a good situation for him to be in and to get experience with.”
• LaVILLE 4, FREMONT 3
At Newton Park
Fremont 000 021 000 – 3 10 0
LaVille 200 010 001 – 4 8 3
Glen McClain, Matt Hoff (7, L) and Mitch Van Zuilen. Justin Baker (W) and Trenton Priser.
2B: Jake Bryant (F)
3B: Ryan Bettcher (LV), Brock Baker (F), Baker (LV)
Records: LaVille 12-12, Fremont 15-14 (final)