St. Johns coach Jake Parker saw the ball sail past the first baseman and started charging down the third-base line behind Adam Proctor.
A celebration then ensued near home plate as the St. Johns baseball team completed its comeback in walk-off fashion to reach the Diamond Classic championship game.
A throwing error with two outs in the seventh scored Jimmy McKane and Proctor to lift the Redwings to a 5-4 victory over Fowlerville in Monday’s semifinal at Cooley Law School Stadium.
“Honestly it’s mind-blowing,” St. Johns’ Jake Crum said. “I wasn’t expecting that. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Here's how St. Johns beat Fowlerville the Diamond Classic semis. pic.twitter.com/WNUdErB8VS— Brian Calloway (@brian_calloway) June 2, 2015
St. Johns (23-11) advances to face defending Classic champion Grand Ledge on Tuesday for the title.
“We kind of had our focus on the Diamond Classic at first,” Proctor said. “Coach wanted the district, but we wanted the Diamond Classic because it was more of a local thing. It’s going to be nice.”
The Redwings have never won the Classic, which is in its 54th year.
“It’s unbelievable,” Parker said of being in the championship game. “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve been thinking about this my whole life. I never got here as a player. It’s big. I’m just proud of my kids tonight for not giving up and battling back.”
Fowlerville, which won a CAAC White title and is still alive in the Division 2 state tournament after winning a district Saturday, jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Mitchell Hubert had an RBI single in the second and the Gladiators capitalized on a pair of St. Johns’ errors to score three in the third.
But Crum helped keep the Redwings in the contest. He had a two-out RBI single in the fourth and added a two-run double in the sixth to pull St. Johns within a run.
“When you get down like that you’ve got to keep clawing back,” Parker said. “You’ve got to just kind of stay within striking distance. The other thing we did after we got down 4-0 was play defense. We settled in. We could’ve given up and had some more errors. I thought we really just settled down and started playing good baseball. That’s huge.”
Proctor, who earned the pitching win, struck out three in the top half of the seventh to keep St. Johns within a run.
The Redwings then made a final push with McKane singling and Proctor drawing a walk to start the seventh. They advanced on a sac bunt before Josh Endres drew a walk to load the bases.
After an infield pop up was the second out, Alex Hudak hit a grounder to the left side of the infield. As the throw got away and Proctor touched home the Redwings erupted in excitement.
“I’m excited but then you feel bad for their kid,” Parker said. “A moment like this and he does that and you kind of feel bad for their kid a little bit because they played unbelievable. They made some unbelievable plays. We crushed the ball all over the place and they just made some unbelievable play after play.
“I told my guys we’re going to get a break and you’ve just got to hang in there. It happened.”