BOULDER — Rick Harig looked at the scoreboard, then had to look again. He’s put in the years coaching baseball, sure, but his eyes did not deceive him Wednesday afternoon.
Despite 21 hits given up by a trio of pitchers, Fairview survived the pesky little jabs thrown by the Eaton Reds to move on in the American Legion A State Tournament.
Let’s face it, sometimes the scoreboard just doesn’t seem to add up. But the Knights (36-24) can try and wrap their heads around a 12-inning, 8-7 win with the comfort of being in the winner’s bracket after a stunning ending to a classic summer baseball game at Knights Field.
Eaton (42-1) wasn’t down for the count after Fairview took a 7-2 advantage in the fourth inning — a vintage Jim Danley-coached team making things difficult on their opponents to the very last play.
And it was the last play that mattered for both teams, controversial as it may have appeared. That’s when Jake Thoning’s double to the left field wall in the 12th frame brought Jeff Clarke barreling home for the walk-off win, and a collision at the plate with Caleb Johnson sparked debate that won’t be soon forgotten.
With a must-slide rule part of the book, umpires converged and determined that Johnson had come up the line after the ball, therefore impeding Clarke’s ability to slide properly.
After he had calmed his team down after the game, Danley couldn’t help but agree.
“There was so much misunderstanding of the whole thing … but our catcher was up the line, certainly, trying to get the ball,” the veteran coach said. “Our catcher did what he had to do, and the runner did what he had to do, and sometimes those things just happen. It wasn’t a dirty play on either side, just good hard baseball.”
“The throw took the catcher up the line, and Clarke was trying to slide. When the catcher came up the line, he didn’t complete his slide, he ended up going through him,” said Harig, whose team will play Brighton at 4 p.m. Thursday. “It was not a run-over-the-catcher play, it’s he’s trying to go down, catcher’s trying to catch a ball. It was clean is what (the umpire) said.”
Like many of his teammates, it had been a long day at the plate for Thoning. His double was his only hit, and the Knights finished with just six for the contest. Fairview went eight full innings between hits.
And, somehow, they led most of the way. Fairview took advantage of five Eaton errors in the first four innings to build up that lead. But against reliever Lane Greiman, the production whittled to near nothing.
“I felt like I got enough of it to get it out of the park, and as soon as it hit the fence I was just hoping that Jeff would be able to get in there,” Thoning said of his winning hit, easily the hardest hit ball for FHS. “All the hype was to them, coming in 42-0. Being the only team to beat them, it gives us a lot of momentum.”
“Our bats were dead a little bit, but we maintained the tie. We just played some solid baseball and were able to come through at the end,” said Clarke, who beat out an error leading off the 12th. “It was a well-hit ball, and it worked out perfectly.”
Ryan Kokora put in his own bid for more work on the mound — which he’ll surely get — by going six innings in relief of Jeremy Katz. Kokora surrendered just two runs on eight hits, subduing the Reds every time they had a chance to pull ahead.
Mike Vlasity earned the win with a 1-2-3 12th.
“Not very often do you see 21 hits the other side and five on your side, and you walk away with a win,” Harig said. “We played that entire game with guys all over the place.”
“If you’re around long enough, you’ll see everything and this was that game,” Danley said.
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Fairview 8, Eaton 7, 12 inn.
At Fairview H.S.
Eaton (42-1) 000 131 010 000 — 7 21 6
Fairview (36-24) 311 200 000 001 — 8 6 3
W — Vlasity. L — Greiman
Eaton hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Nelson 7-2-1-0, Ja. Mondragon 7-0-3-2, Burkart 7-0-2-1, Lind 7-0-3-0, Koehler 7-0-2-1, Dyer 4-3-2-0, Tedesco 7-0-0-0, Greiman 7-1-4-0, Jo. Mondragon 5-1-4-3. Totals 58–7-21-7. 2B — Lind, Jo. Mondragon 2.
Fairview hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Frazier 4-2-1-0, Harris 5-2-0-0, Clarke 5-2-0-1, D’Epagnier 5-0-0-1, Thoning 5-0-1-1, Casey 4-1-2-1, Kearney 3-0-1-0, Feauto 3-1-1-1, Munson 1-0-0-0, Katz 2-0-0-0, Kokora 1-0-0-0. Totals 38-8-6-5. 2B — Thoning. SB — Frazier 3, Thoning, Casey.
Eaton pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Nelson 6.1-5-7-1-6-1, Greiman 5-1-1-0-2-4.
Fairview pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Katz 5-13-5-5-1-7, Kokora 6-8-2-2-1-5, Vlasity 1-0-0-0-0-0.