With the top of their batting order due up in the bottom half of the 11th inning Sunday night, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the Vermillion Grey Sox would push across the winning run against Dakota Valley.
And it didn't take long.
With the score tied at 8-8, leadoff man Jason Rasmussen was plunked by Pilot pitcher Steven Gross, setting the table for Jerrod Freidel. He may never again lay down as perfect a bunt as he did this time. Freidel beat it out for a hit but more importantly advanced the winning run to second base.
Then it became Brooks Little's turn to play the hero's role. He smashed a line drive to left field, bringing home Rasmussen, and the Grey Sox, down by 7-3 and 8-4 earlier in the game, emerged victorious, 9-8.
It had taken Vermillion from the third inning to the bottom of the ninth to overcome a disastrous top of the third in which they dug themselves a major hole, committing four errors. Dakota Valley also had four hits in the inning and came out of it with six runs to take a 7-3 lead.
The Sox had gone up 3-1 in the second when Reid Meierkort led off with a triple and Merritt Groh and Rasmussen had RBI hits. Two Pilot errors helped the home team's cause.
Little singled home a Sox run in the fifth to cut their deficit to 7-4, but Dakota Valley answered with an unearned run in their seventh to again lead by four.
Just as the Grey Sox had helped Dakota Valley score a bunch earlier, the Pilots chipped in with some gifts of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Rasmussen and Little led off with hits. An error at shortstop let in one Grey Sox run, and a dropped fly ball in left field allowed two more to score, and it was 8-7.
Little, who like Rasmussen had four hits in the game, led off the bottom of the ninth with a hit. Grant Lueders' sacrifice bunt set Little into motion, and he kept going all the way home to tie the game as the Pilot first baseman's throw toward second base in a failed attempt to nail Little sailed into left field.
Sox starter Alex Schaack, shaking off the six-run, four-error third, kept Dakota Valley in check for the rest of the first nine innings, holding the Pilots to only one run and five scattered hits over that stretch. But in extra innings, once his team had finally caught up, Schaack mowed down Dakota Valley in order in the 10th and the 11th, and as a result he emerged from the evening with a pitching win.
Besides the eight hits compiled by Rasmussen and Little, Freidel had two, Meierkort one and Merritt Groh one. Little had two RBIs, Rasmussen one and Groh one. Ryan Gossett had three of Dakota Valley's 10 hits, and Mike Keegan drove home a pair of runs.