After an impressive win over Irene on Monday night, Vermillion's 15-16 Teeners were poised to move to within five games of the Region 1A championship with a win over Lennox Tuesday night.
But against the Lennox team they had defeated handily twice during the regular season, Vermillion's Teeners sustained an ugly 16-10 loss that wasn't that close and sank into the losers' bracket. That meant that, starting Wednesday night, Vermillion would have to win Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon to take the regional title instead of needing just five wins to get the championship.
The lights on four of the eight towers at the Lennox ballpark went out in the bottom of the second inning, but in reality the lights went out for Vermillion in the bottom of the first.
Staked to an early 2-0 lead, starter Jacob Odens faced eight batters and didn't get any of them out. Reliever Peter Haught faced eight more before the first inning finally ended, and Lennox had a 10-2 lead. That half inning included five hits, one scoring error to go along with a couple mental errors, five walks and three hit batters.
To Haught's credit, he gave Vermillion a chance to rally by holding Lennox scoreless in the second, third and fourth innings. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second but struck out the side in the third and faced only three batters in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Vermillion pecked away at its eight-run deficit, getting one in the second, two runs in the third and one in the fifth to close to within 10-6.
Regan Bye relieved Haught to start the bottom of the fifth. He walked the first two batters he faced and hit the third with a pitch but escaped that impossible situation without any runs scoring, thanks in large part to striking out the last two Lennox batters of the inning.
Vermillion got another run in the top of the seventh and was within 10-7.
It wasn't because they were whacking the ball off Lennox hurler Derek DeVries that the Teeners were able to cut into the big lead. DeVries and his teammates gave Vermillion two runs on errors and another on a wild pitch. Ty Iverson and Haught did come through with RBI hits that helped the rally.
But, if it hadn't been lost earlier, the game was lost in the bottom of the sixth. Bye walked five batters and threw four wild pitches. They and a costly infield error opened the flood gates. Then a pair of Lennox batters joined the party with RBI hits. Lennox tallied six runs to take a 16-7 lead.
What made that inning all the more deadly was that — wouldn't you know! — in the top of the seventh Vermillion scored three times, two of the runs coming on Seth Heine's home run and the other on a hit by Seth Miller. Had it not been for the six-run sixth by Lennox, those three runs would have tied the game at 10-10.
DeVries pitched the entire seven innings. He gave Vermillion only four hits through the first six innings, then four more in the seventh when it didn't matter. He struck out five and walked four. The three Vermillion pitchers walked 13. And for all its scoring, Lennox still stranded 10 other runners on base.
Jordan Harrington had five RBIs for Lennox and Delane Hood two.
The loss left Vermillion's record at 27-17 heading into Wednesday's losers' bracket play.
Teeners 15, Irene 1
Justin Bendesky's grand-slam home run in the top of the fifth inning broke open a close game, and from then on Vermillion was on cruise control en route to a 15-1 first-round win over Irene in Lennox Monday night.
Starting pitchers Colin Olson of Vermillion and Jack Huether of Irene dueled through four innings, and it was still anybody's game at that point. Vermillion scored once in the first on Pete Haught's hit, Jay Munger's sacrifice and Olson's infield grounder and once more in the second on Ty Iverson's walk and stolen base and subsequent walks earned by Seth Miller and then by Haught with the bases full.
Huether struck out 10 Vermillion batters in his four innings of work, fanning the side in the second, third and fourth innings, yet he trailed when he left the game.
Olson, on the other hand, lived dangerously but rose to the occasion, surviving one crisis situation after another. Irene left the bases full in the first and second and stranded two in the third and fourth innings. Olson got two strikeouts in the first after Irene loaded the bases with one out. In the third Olson picked a runner off second base to end that threat. In the fourth a great catch by Ben Houser in right field helped Olson survive two infield errors. In all, Olson stranded 10 runners on base in his four innings of work.
Despite all of that, Vermillion still led 2-0 going into the fifth when Ty Martz took over on the mound for Irene. Seth Heine's double started it all, and he eventually after two walks and a hit batter. Then Bendesky launched his moon shot into the darkness behind left field, and suddenly the game was out of Irene's reach at 7-0.
Vermillion picked up three more runs in the sixth on hits by Olson, Heine and Ty Iverson, two more walks and a hit batter. A five-run seventh featured hits by Iverson, Jack Brown, Bendesky and Haught, three more walks and an infield error.
Haught finished the night with three hits while Olson, Heine, Iverson, Brown and Bendesky had two each. Bendesky's productive night earned him six RBIs.
Ethan James relieved Olson, who fanned five and gave up four hits, for the final three innings. James struck out four, walked two and allowed only one hit over that stretch. Irene spoiled a shutout with a sixth-inning run on a hit batter, a stolen base, a balk and a wild pitch.