By Brenden West Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — GOOSE LAKE -- In a game where scoring runs seemed unfathomable, Michael Hartung found himself with an improbable chance to seal victory for Northeast.
Setting him up was an errant throw by Maquoketa allowing Cole Dickey to reach second base; a towering Jared Henfrey pop-up that should’ve brought Northeast one out closer to defeat, but instead got caught in the lights, blinding Cardinals right fielder Alex Gillmore and landed two yards away.
The scenario put runners on second and third base (Dickey and Henfrey were replaced with pinch runners Trey Sullivan and Jack Murphy) with one out in the eighth inning of a 3-2 game. Dickey, Northeast’s starting pitcher, had done everything from the mound to keep it winnable, pitching a complete game -- and then some. For that matter, so had Maquoketa’s Alex Becker, who capped off six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts before bowing out.
The Rebels let up two runs in the seventh inning, both on errors. They battled back to force extras, but then let another run in the top of the eighth on Tyler Regan’s one-out RBI base hit, scoring Cardinals teammate Josh Kirk from second.
The game closed with a share of ups and downs, and just one good Hartung swing was all a hushed Goose Lake audience could beg for.
Hartung smoked a grounder right to second baseman Christian Flanker. It dribbled casually, then sprung high above the fielder’s glove -- hardly surprising given the last two, error-filled innings complete with numerous seeing-eye grounders.
Murphy and Sullivan rounded the bags, with Sullivan beating out the throw home, to put up two scores in a comeback, wild walk-off finish that sent Rebels fans into euphoria.
“As soon as it came off the bat, I didn’t think it was going to be anything,” Hartung said. “I was just trying to hit the ball hard. It was crazy, just so intense. It feels awesome.”
It left Maquoketa clearly downtrodden, with players taking a somber team huddle on the first baseline afterward.
“Both pitchers threw well,” Cardinals coach Pat Bollman. “We did a lot of good things out there tonight, just couldn’t execute a little bit at the end... You lose a ball in the lights, and what are the odds?
“I told the team I was very proud of their effort. You move on.”
On the opposite end of the field, Northeast players and coaches recognized solidarity behind a true team effort. Twelve players helped secure the win.
None were more pleased than Dickey, who scraped through eight straight innings allowing only six hits and notching six strikeouts.
“I wanted that game,” Dickey said. “I knew we’d come through as a team and pull through in the end. It was a very exciting game.
“I was nervous out there, but the way we came through in that seventh inning, I knew we were coming through with it.”
For coach Tyler Howe, there was no second thoughts about keeping the ball in Dickey’s hand.
“I had full confidence in him,” Howe said. “He earned the extra inning because he was so effective in the first six innings. His pitch count was so low... lower than his last five starts.
“The guys proved a lot to me. They never gave up and competed every pitch.”
The Rebels, 13-3, turn their focus to Prince of Peace on Thursday in a doubleheader on the road.
NORTHEAST 4, MAQUOKETA 3
Maquoketa 000 000 21 -- 3 6 4
Northeast 000 000 22 -- 4 7 2
Alex Becker (6 ip, 4 h, 2 r, 9 so), Tyler Regan (2 ip, 3 h, 2 r, 1 so) and Blaise Waller; Cole Dickey (8 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 6 so) and Zach Scott. Multiple hits -- Northeast (Charlie Marcucci 3). RBI -- Northeast (Marcucci, Nick Wall).