BUSSEY — Colfax-Mingo coach Greer Milledge knew he shouldn’t have pitched to Twin Cedars standout Trace Embray with the bases loaded in the fourth inning with his team leading 6-3.
That decision could have haunted Milledge this entire offseason. It could have been the decision that ended the Tigerhawks’ season.
Instead, Colfax-Mingo laughed it off, went back to work and rallied for an 8-7, eight-inning victory Thursday during a Class 1A District 11 semifinal game at Twin Cedars High School.
“This game just shows that this team doesn’t give up,” Milledge said. “I should have walked (Embray) in the fourth. That was a mistake. No doubt. I am not sure what happens if I do walk him, but I should have just walked him even though the bases were loaded.”
Embray had the Sabers’ only two hits of the game, but both were home runs that drove in all seven runs against Tigerhawk starter Trystin Ross.
Juniors Alex Lewis and Jonathan Jacobs combined to allow no runs and no hits with 11 strikeouts in the final 4 2/3 innings. They gave the Tigerhawks a chance to rally when they struck out the side in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.
“We don’t have a chance to win this game if those two don’t pitch the way they pitched tonight,” Milledge said. “They didn’t allow a hit from the fifth inning on.
“Alex did a good job and did everything I asked him to do. Jonathan came in there late and just slammed the door shut.”
Lewis started the game at third base and recorded seven outs on the mound despite playing under the weather. Prior to the game, the only items Lewis consumed were water and saltine crackers. He had a package of skittles during the game.
“I just tried to do whatever I could to help this team win,” Lewis said. “I knew I couldn’t let them score any more runs to give us a chance.”
The extra-inning victory sends the Tigerhawks (18-5) to the district championship game against Moravia at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Mohawks downed Lynnville-Sully, 10-6, in the first semifinal game of the night.
Ross (7-1) got off to a rocky start when he hit the first batter he faced and put two runners on with a walk. Embray made it 3-0 when he crushed a 3-1 pitch to left field.
The Tigerhawks rallied with a five-run second to take a 5-3 lead. Ross started the rally with a one-out single and then his courtesy runner, sophomore Isaac Clouse, scored on Lewis’ RBI doiuble.
Senior Jimmy Camp was hit a pitch before freshman Trinity Schroeder brought home Lewis with an RBI single. Sophomore Zarek Hill made it 5-3 when he laced a two-run double to the gap in left-center field.
Colfax-Mingo tacked on another run in the third. Jacobs began the frame with an infield single and then moved up a base on a Ross sacrifice bunt. With two outs, freshman Brady Berkey walked and then an error on a ground ball by Camp allowed Jacobs to score.
Ross got through the second and third inning with no damage against Twin Cedars. But in the fourth, the Sabers grabbed the lead against the Tigerhawk freshman.
Ross hit Austin Test to open the frame and then walked Daniel Beary. A fielder’s choice ground ball got Ross one out, but he walked Kade Dunkin to load the bases.
After a visit to the mound, Milledge decided to allow Ross to pitch to Embray. That proved to be a mistake as Embray smoked the first pitch he saw well over the fence in left field. The grand slam made it 7-6 in favor of the Sabers (17-11).
“The guys laughed off the hit,” Milledge said. “There’s nothing you can do about a ball hit that hard. We were able to shake that off and we would not have done that in the past.”
Colfax-Mingo was down to its final three outs. Senior Adam Teed and Jacobs singled to start the seventh. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch and then Lewis loaded the bases with a one-out walk.
Before Berkey grounded out and Camp struck out to end the inning, Teed scored on a wild pitch to force extra innings.
That’s when Jacobs made sure the Sabers stayed off the scoreboard. He came into the game with two outs in the seventh and struck out Colton Spaur to end the inning. Jacobs struck out the side to keep the game tied in the eighth.
Needing just one run, Schroeder started the inning with an infield single. Junior Misha Seebeck and Teed were both hit by pitches to load the bases with one out.
Jacobs grounded into a fielder’s choice as Schroeder was thrown out at home.
With two outs, a wild pitch by Ben Rowley allowed Seebeck to sprint home for the walk-off win.
“I was just hoping for a hit or anything,” Seebeck said. “I needed to find a way to score the run, and I was able to do my job.”
Ross started on the mound and allowed seven earned runs on two hits with four strikeouts, six walks and three hit by pitches in 3 1/3 innings.
Lewis walked one and hit one but struck out seven and didn’t allow a hit in 3 1/3 innings. Jacobs (5-0) got the win after allowing no runs on not hits with four strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
“Their performances on the mound were incredible,” Seebeck said of teammates Lewis and Jacobs. “That’s exactly what we needed. We trusted them to get the job done and they did it. Earlier in the season, we probably would have folded after they took the lead.”
Lewis was taken out after 40 pitches because Milledge wants to use possibly use him in the district championship game Saturday. Jacobs, who threw less than 40 pitches, will get the start in Colfax-Mingo’s biggest game in several years against the champions of the Bluegrass Conference.
“I want the ball for that game,” Jacobs said. “I just want to throw strikes and let my defense make plays behind me. “This game tonight showed our colors. We just don’t quit.”
Colfax-Mingo will take a four-game winning streak into the district title game. The only pitcher not available to throw in that game for the Tigerhawks is Ross.