In some sports the clock would have run out before the Grey Sox had completed their comeback, but in baseball there is always a chance, slim though it might be, that a miracle can happen.
It happened at Prentis Park Sunday evening when the Vermillion team, trailing 10-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, arose from the dead with a nine-run eighth to tie the game and then won it 11-10 with a run in the bottom of the ninth.
The stunning loss eliminated Canton from state amateur tourney possibilities, but it wasn't as if the Canton team hadn't been here before. Just 11 days earlier, they had led the Grey Sox 8-2 with two innings to play and had seen the Sox score three in the seventh to get closer and fourth in the ninth to win it 9-8.
This time, with their season on the line, the Grey Sox certainly seemed dead in the water. Canton had scored two runs in the first inning, three more in the second, four in the fourth and one in the sixth. The only thing Vermillion could offer in return was a solo home run by Jason Rasmussen in the third.
Cody Schreiber, who had started on the mound for the Grey Sox, was relieved by Tyler Johnson with one out in the fourth. He gave up one final run in that inning and a solo run in the sixth, but otherwise Johnson shut down Canton and, as it turned out later, gave his team a chance. Johnson struck out seven in his 5 2/3 innings, walked only one and scattered four hits. Most important of all, he kept Canton from gaining a 10-run advantage, which would have ended the game prematurely and taken away any chance for the team's grand finale.
Canton starter Mark Rhead, except for Rasmussen's homer, had kept the Sox off the scoreboard through seven, spreading out seven hits while striking out four and walking one. But when Rasmussen was plunked with a Rhead pitch to start the bottom of the eighth, the proverbial Fat Lady, who maybe had been warming up in the wings, decided not to start singing after all.
A Reid Meierkort single and a walk to Kyle Nemec loaded the bases. Another walk to Schreiber forced in a run, and it was 10-2. Grant Lueders' single made it 10-3, and Rhead was replaced by Thad Meister on the mound.
He was greeted by Jarrod Freidel's clutch double that scored two. The score was 10-5.
Meister got a strikeout for the inning's second out, and the Grey Sox rally appeared to be on its last legs until Meister uncorked a wild pitch that scored Freidel. Make the score 10-6.
A walk to Johnson kept the Grey Sox alive, and another Meister wild pitch advanced Freidel to third and Johnson to second.
There was magic in the air! A patient Rasmussen waited out Meister for a ball-four pitch that went sailing to the backstop. Freidel scored as the catcher chased after the ball, and the throw to the plate went sailing into the middle of the infield where there was nobody to pick it up. While Canton's infielders stood around in a daze, Johnson also scored, and suddenly it was 10-8.
Lightning struck out of the clear blue sky when Meierkort, with Rasmussen at second base, drove the ball into the Prentis Park trees to tie the game at 10-10.
After Johnson retired Canton in the top of the ninth, the Grey Sox immediately went to work against Meister. Leadoff man Nemec walked. Schreiber laid down a bunt to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound in a sacrifice attempt, but Meister's flip to his first-baseman was mishandled. Nemec, the winning run, moved on to second. Lueders walked to load the bases, bringing on reliever Devin Skiles, whose body language showed he didn't really expect to weasel out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out mess.
He did get a short outfield flyball for the first out, but Travis Lee drove a pitch deep into centerfield for the second out. It was deep enough to get the job done, however, and Nemec, tagging up at third, trotted home easily with the winning run. For Canton it was time to throw gloves around in frustration while the Grey Sox celebrated.
Meierkort ended the night with three hits along with his two RBIs. Nemec had two hits, and Friedel two RBIs.
Devin Skiles had three hits and four RBIs for Canton.
The amazing victory moved the Grey Sox into a Wednesday night game against Elk Point with the winner advancing to the state tournament, which begins in Sioux Falls next Wednesday, Aug. 4.
The District 7B tournament began last Wednesday with games at four sites. The Grey Sox lost in 10 innings at Akron, 10-9. Larchwood whipped Alcester 18-3 in a five-inning game, Elk Point-Jefferson topped Renner-Newcastle 9-2, and Garretson defeated Canton 9-3.
In the next round Garretson earned a championship game berth as well as a state tourney trip with a 9-5 win over Akron, and Larchwood became a state tourney team with a 6-3 Sunday win over Elk Point. Larchwood claimed the district title with a 9-3 triumph over Garretson Tuesday.