It took almost 24 hours, but Seton Catholic baseball is not complaining.
The Class A Cardinals repeated as Sectional 56 champions late Tuesday afternoon by pulling out a 9-8, eight-inning win over Tri on John Cate Field at McBride Stadium, completing a sectional final game that was suspended by weather late Monday night.
Senior Craig Heyob singled in Cliff Dickman with the game-winning run, prompting a celebration of a comeback win that put the tournament hosts in front for the only time in the contest.
In so doing, Seton wins this baseball sectional for the third time in four years, and moves on to meet Monroe Central, the winner of Sectional 55 at Daleville High School, at 10 a.m. Saturday in the regional semifinals at Carroll (Flora) High School.
Heyob’s hit was his third of the game, and came just one inning after he had scored the tying run with two outs in the last of the seventh inning on a costly Tri error.
That play allowed the Cardinals to tie the score at eight, and kept Seton’s season alive. The Cards stand at 16-9 going into regional play. Host Carroll (Flora) will meet Rockville in the second regional semifinal Saturday, with a scheduled first pitch time of 12:30 p.m.
“It (the pitch) was a mistake, a fastball right down the middle, and I just wanted to hit it somewhere” said Heyob of the delivery that he lined into left field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. “I just wanted to capitalize on the mistake right there, and was able to do it.”
The sophomore Dickman slid over home plate with the sectional-winning run as the ball bounced to Tri catcher Jason Marshall.
The game was tied at seven in the top of the sixth inning when rain halted play Monday night, and neither team scored in that inning when play resumed under sunny skies Tuesday afternoon.
But the Titans nosed ahead in the top of the seventh inning when junior standout Riley Casteel lined a single to center to lead off the inning, his fourth hit in as many plate appearances.
Later in the inning, Casteel scored on a groundout to shortstop, and Tri led 8-7 with just three outs to record.
But the Henry County visitors fell one out short of accomplishing that goal.
A hard grounder struck by Seton’s Colten Pipenger with two outs and runners on first and second bounded away and rolled into short left field. Heyob rounded third base and scored Seton’s eighth run.
Cardinal senior pitcher Brady Gray retired the Titans in order in the top of the eighth inning, setting the stage for Seton’s eighth-inning heroics.
After an out had been recorded, Adam Dolesh had a single, his third hit of the game. Dickman then grounded into a forceout at second base for the second out.
But freshman Jake Leverton drew a walk on a close, 3-2 pitch, setting the table for Heyob’s game-clinching blow.
The Tuesday result came after Seton trailed 7-1 Monday night versus Tri, but the Cardinals scored six runs in the last of the fifth inning to tie the score right before rain suspended play.
“The coaches said we weren’t done yet, and to not quit and keep fighting,” Heyob said of the team’s resolve. “The coaches just told us (Tuesday) to relax, have fun and win the game, and we were able to do that.”
First-year head coach Jake Carr spoke after getting the ceremonial drenching by his players.
“I show up at practice, and these kids work really hard,” Carr said of his Cardinal team. “No one gave us a shot this year after all the good kids and players who graduated from last year’s team, but my players are extremely competitive. They are very gritty and battle back. It feels really good right now.”
As happy as Seton was after the dramatic win, the opposite sadness enveloped a Titan team that played well in two sectional games and saw its season end with a 8-14 record.
“My kids battled through two extra-inning games in the sectional and had chances to win this game,” said Tri coach Cary Ellis. “But some plays went against us, and like I told our kids, bad things happen to good people every day.”
It was an emotional time for Ellis, his players and staff.
“I have four kids at home, and it feels like I lost four kids who graduate from this team,” Ellis added. Tri senior players are Jason Marshall, Lane Blake, Zack Longnecker and Isaac Jett.
Seton will seek regional revenge against Monroe Central on Saturday. The Golden Bears blanked the Cardinals 4-0 in eight innings last year in the Class A regional semifinals that were staged at Lafayette Central Catholic High School.