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Walk-off winner

Walk-off winner
Walk-off winner
Lifted in the air, Lanesville's Mitchell Bailey indicates No. 1 toward the fans. The sophomore put the ball in play in the 10th inning to drive in the winning run. Photos by Brian Smith

It never hurts to have the fastest player 90 feet away from a semi-state berth with no outs in crunch time.
Crunch time happened to be in the bottom of the 10th inning an hour before midnight Saturday. With the swift Greg Daly at third base and the other bags occupied with Lanesville players, the Eagles liked their chances to break a 4-all tie against Northeast Dubois.
Putting the ball in play, Lanesville’s Mitchell Bailey rolled over a grounder to third. Sprinting home, Daly dove head first into a safe call, swooping the Eagles (14-11) to the Class 1A Loogootee Regional championship with a 5-4 comeback victory over the Jeeps (14-10).
‘I had no idea if Greg was safe or not,’ Lanesville coach Zach Payne said. ‘Everyone started cheering, and I forgot to even watch the umpire. Then I started cheering.’
Soon there was a flood of purple and white mobbing Daly before dog piling close to the mound near Bailey.
‘Everyone was going everywhere,’ Bailey said. ‘It’s awesome. That was a lot better dog pile.’
Evan Peele, who caught a total of 17 innings during the semi-final and final at regional had the best seat of Daly scoring, the on-deck circle.
‘I was the first to meet Greg,’ said Peele, who added his legs felt like Jell-O. ‘I saw it all happen. It’s something I’ll never forget. We hoped to get here, but to go from a sectional straight to a regional championship is unbelievable.’
It was part comeback heroics in the bottom of the 10th. Lanesville had a 3-1 lead after three innings but were shutout until the ruckus close. The Jeeps evened the game in the fifth, prompting extra innings.
On their third pitcher, the Eagles turned to Ryan McCubbins in the 10th. An early hit by pitch saw Northeast Dubois put a runner in scoring position. With two outs, Northeast Dubois caught a break via the all-grass infield at Loogootee. Owen Fuhrman hit a sharp single toward Brenden Bube at short, but a wicked bad hop nicked his face for a run-scoring single.
Avoiding a big inning, McCubbins left the bases loaded when he forced Brandon Merkel to ground out back to the mound.
‘Honestly, as well as Ryan hit the ball, it was him on the mound that won us the game,’ Payne said. ‘His confidence wasn’t too high after some of his outings this year, but, for him to come in and send us to the final four by keeping us in the game, I’m proud of him.’
Down 4-3, Lanesville never wavered in the 10th. Jon Will reached when he was hit by a pitch. Daly then legged out a bunt despite colliding with a Jeeps’ player at first base, reaching on a error. With runners on first and third bases, Daly swiped second. An errand throw by the Jeeps ended up in center, allowing Will to tie the score.
‘I felt good we’d score one run with Jon Will leading us off with our 9-1-2 coming to bat,’ Payne said. ‘A lot of teams see a nine hitter coming up and assume an out. But Jon has been a really tough out the last week or two. Once he got on base, I knew we’d at least tie the game.’
The Northeast Dubois coach opted to load the bases with no outs, allowing Bube and McCubbins to reach by intentional walks.
Bailey admitted he didn’t go through with coach Payne’s initial instructions at the plate but put the second pitch he saw was put in play, scoring Daly on a bang-bang play at home.
‘That was crazy,’ Bailey said. ‘Coach Payne told me to wait for a strike before I swing. I swung at that first curveball, and he was mad. I knew I just had to put it in play. It wasn’t the prettiest, but it worked.’
‘Oh, my God; I can’t believe it,’ senior Luke Beach said of his reaction of the final play. ‘I was kind of nervous, but, when he came home, I knew he got in.’
The win put Lanesville in the Jasper Semi-state, where the Eagles will face Clay City at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
‘That was awesome,’ Lanesville student manager Brandon Miniard said amid the celebration.
To begin the game, the left-handed throwing Bailey gave up a pair of two-out singles to plate Northeast Dubois’ first run.
Will kicked off Lanesville’s rally in the third with a one-out hit through the infield. One out later, Bube reached on error, giving McCubbins a chance with runners on. Splitting the left-centerfield gap, McCubbins sent a double toward the fence, scoring Will and Bube. Upon taking third on the late throw home, McCubbins chugged home when the Jeeps threw the ball to left field.
‘With runners on, I told myself, (if) it comes up and in, I am going to hit it,’ McCubbins said. ‘It was exactly where I wanted it.’
Northeast Dubois had two on with no outs in the fourth, but Bailey closed the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
‘The biggest thing for our pitchers is staying consistent,’ catcher Peele said. ‘We stress first-pitch strikes and getting momentum going. We can’t get down in counts. There were times we were inconsistent, but our pitchers showed they were mentally tough and stayed with it. We really came through.’
Two walks came around to score for the Jeeps in the fifth to post a 3-all score at Les Page Field. Cayden Knies had an RBI ground out, then Parker Zehr was allowed to trot home when Bailey was called for a balk.
‘He’s been doing that pick-off move all year and no one has called it,’ Payne said. ‘That was tough, but he pitched really well. When he gave up one run in the first, he responded well and bounced back. We’re blessed to have the arms we have up at the top of our rotation.’
After tossing six innings, Bailey turned it over to Bube. He allowed two runners to reach through three innings but kept the Jeeps off the scoreboard. Bube used his allotted 10 innings after pitching a complete game in the semi-final.
‘He is in incredible shape,’ Payne said of Bube. ‘He threw about 90 pitches in game one, and I didn’t plan to throw him more than an inning in the second game. He’s always taking care of himself and his arm. He was great tonight, and we knew he’d get a week of rest.’
When McCubbins got the call to pitch the 10th, it caught him by surprise.
‘When (Bube’s) pitching limit was up and I had to go in, I was freaking out,’ he admitted. ‘I kept as calm as I could and just pitched.’
Grinding through a prolonged day, which featured a two-hour break between games, mental toughness was lauded by many.
‘It’s mental toughness,’ Bailey said. ‘Coaches talk about it all the time. ‘Finish’ has been our motto all year long, and we used it again today. We did it in sectional and did it again in regional.’
‘The secret was taking the momentum from sectional and winning the first game against Trinity Lutheran, a team we lost to earlier this year, and not even thinking about losing,’ McCubbins said. ‘Losing wasn’t in our mind.’
Payne said McCubbins became a vocal leader before the regular season came to a close.
‘We were 9-9 (record) at one point and, one day at practice, Ryan McCubbins stepped up and told the guys our record doesn’t matter,’ Payne said. ‘We had a good conference record and now our goal is the postseason. It’s an awesome feeling.’
Lanesville had only six hits during 10 innings, with one each from Cameron Harvey, Daly, McCubbins and Will, along with two from Bailey.
Winning in dramatic fashion meant a lot to the players, including McCubbins.
‘This is very personal to me,’ McCubbins said. ‘I’ve been playing with a lot of these guys since I was 5, playing in 11-year-old All-stars, and now this happens; it’s amazing.’
Next up is a shot in the final four.
‘It’s surreal,’ Peele said. ‘There is no other group I’d want to go into semi-state with other than these guys. It’s a great feeling. We’re goof-balls and like to have fun.’
‘It’s awesome,’ Bailey said. ‘I can’t wait. I want to thank the Lord for being with me in that game.’
The confidence likely will spill over to the one-game matchup with Clay City.
‘It’s a one-game, winner go home at this point,’ coach Payne said. ‘We like our chances with Brenden pitching and Mitchell in relief. I’m really proud of the resilience. We really struggled to score runs for several innings, and they didn’t hang their heads when down a run in the 10th. That’s a really mentally strong group.’

Northeast Dubois 100 020 000 1 ‘ 4 7 3
Lanesville 003 000 000 2 ‘ 5 6 2
W ‘ McCubbins, L ‘ Eisenhut.
2B ‘ McCubbins (L), Meyer (ND).