Sean McGuire was the rock on which Hillcrest built their season. Entering the game with nine wins and the #4 seed, the Comets sent their ace to the mound and he didn't disappoint. McGuire fanned 9 batters with ease, allowing a startling 3 hits and one earned run in seven innings.
The Comets played #5 seed Menahga, whose ace painted the corners and allowed 1 run in seven frames. The Menahga Braves boosted ace Charles Haataja's confidence with a quick run in the first inning. Kyle Skoog watched four pitches miss and walked to first base. He stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly where he was tagged at the plate, but the Comets dropped the ball after the tag.
Reggie Undseth provided defense for McGuire in the 2nd inning with a lead-off single. He moved to second on a bunt, and scored on groundout by Jake Steinle.
The small-ball strategy paid off for both squads as runners advanced with infield hits and quick feet on the base path. In the 3rd the Braves moved ahead with the lead that they held through the rest of the night. Skoog watched pitches to earn a free trip to first base again. He scored on a two-out bloop single.
The preceeding innings saw both pitchers dig-in. The three frame warm-up prepared the squads for the subsequent defensive battle as neither team could place their bats on the ball for quick runs.
The bottom of the 9th saw Hillcrest give a final surge. A deep double by Jonathan Eckhardt put the Comets in scoring position with no outs. The Braves called an infield timeout and met on the mound. Coming out of the huddle Haataja's eys drifted to first base before he pulled his foot from the rubber with a lightning move. The Braves exercised a precision pick-off that saw Eckhardt depart for the dugout and the Comets lose their advantage on second base. A strike-out and dribbling groundout caused the Comets to close the inning after putting one more man on the bases. They zipped-up their bags and wiped eye paint stained with a few tears caused by the closing of their 9-7 season.
Comet Coach Steve Undseth explained the loss, "We were just not able to generate much offense. 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, and just 5 hits total." Chris Tungseth and Jonathan Eckhardt strung-out nice doubles. Reggie Undseth, Sean McGuire, and Jared Christenson provided singles. "When we look back at the complete body of work, we had a nice season full of fun memories, but right now this one hurts."
The Comets close the season with a group of guys who have grown close together. Highlights from Nathan Doering, a Senior at Hillcrest, include the opportunity to unite together with his team under the guidance of Coach Unseth. He also remembers executing a hit-and-run, something he says he'll never forget as his team cheered him on. Jonathan Eckhardt, also a Senior, mentioned a great deal about Baseball in his Salutatory speech at Hillcrest's graduation last weekend. The comments revealed a bond and lesson learned through Baseball that will outlast the win/loss column. Please view Jonathan's speech below: