Dazed after a hard-hitting collision that capped the seventh inning, Manual High School catcher Chris Gambert wasn’t about to sit out the rest of what could have been the last game of his prep career.
And in the ninth inning he helped extend that career for at least one more game.
Gambert, a Bellarmine University signee, singled home Matthew Olson in the top of the ninth for the winning run as the Crimsons beat rival Male 6-5 on Tuesday in a semifinal of the Seventh Region Tournament at the University of Louisville’s Jim Patterson Stadium.
“I told my teammates to get me an at-bat and I’d end it the right way,” Gambert said.
Manual (20-15) advanced to face the St. Xavier-Ballard winner in Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. regional final, with a berth in the state tournament on the line. The Crimsons haven’t won a regional title since 1962.
Third-year coach Matt Timbario said “CTCMB” – Change The Culture of Manual Baseball – has been his theme since Day One.
“I knew we had the talent physically,” Timbario said. “I just don’t think mentally we were there. I just kept pounding it into their brains: ‘Change the culture. Change the culture.’ Our guys bought in, and I like the way things are going right now.”
Leading 5-2, Manual survived a wild bottom of the seventh inning to advance.
With two out and the bases loaded, Male’s Noah Thompson hit a ground ball that Manual second baseman Aaron Sary misplayed, allowing two runs to score and leaving runners at first and third.
Slate Robinson followed with a pop-up that was dropped by Manual right fielder Drew Marquardt, allowing Will Seewer to score the tying run. Thompson tried to score from first and ran into Gambert, the Manual catcher. Gambert dropped the ball, but Thompson was ruled out and ejected from the game for not sliding.
“It was one of those deals where you make them make a play, and they did,” Male coach Jeff Garrity said.
Gambert said Thompson shouldered him in the chest.
“I’m not going to lie, I don’t feel the greatest,” Gambert said after the game. “I’m a little mentally out of it, but for the most part I’m here. More than anything it just shocked me.”
In the decisive ninth, Olson had a one-out single before moving to second on a passed ball and scoring on Gambert’s single.
Timbario said it was appropriate Gambert got the go-ahead hit.
“He’s been the heart and soul of this team,” Timbario said. “He kept them up in the dugout every inning and didn’t let us quit.”
Male (19-17) got runners to second and third with two out in the bottom of the ninth, but pinch-hitter Dylan Justice flied out to right to end the game.
It was a tough finish for a Male squad that was near-perfect in a 3-0 victory over Trinity in Monday’s quarterfinals.
“As sharp as we were against Trinity, we were not sharp all the way around today,” Garrity said. “But to our credit, we had a chance to lay down but continued to battle and gave ourselves a chance. That’s all you can ask for. Manual swung the bats really well tonight, and that was the difference.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
MANUAL 010 120 101 – 6 12 5
MALE 010 001 300 – 5 8 1
WP – Quintin Bynum (2-1). LP – Will Seewer (3-3). 3B – Gambert (Manual). 2B – Ullom (Male), Gambert (Manual), Clinard (Manual).