PLEASANTVILLE — Prairie City-Monroe junior Brayton Van Dyke was taken off the mound with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs were up by one run but Van Dyke had just walked two straight batters to load the bases.
It would have been easy to sulk and walk back to his shortstop position with his head down. Instead, Van Dyke made sure he played a role in his team advancing to the Class 2A District 12 semifinals.
Van Dyke snagged a hard line drive to the hole with the bases loaded, and the diving catch ended the Trojans’ threat and secured the 8-7 victory for PCM.
“I barely caught. I got it with my fingertips. It was close though,” Van Dyke said.
It was a much different outcome then when these two teams played on July 2 in Prairie City. Pleasantville won that game 12-1.
The Mustangs led 4-0 early but trailed 7-4 entering the seventh inning. PCM batted around in the top of the seventh and scored four runs to take the lead despite only getting one hit in the frame.
Pleasantville (23-12) committed three of its five errors in the seventh. The final error came on a potential game-ending double play. Trojan senior shortstop Gauge Van Haalen fielded the ground ball and stepped on second base for the second out but his throw on the potential double play was off target.
The bases were loaded and the game was tied before the ground ball. Van Dyke scored the game-winning run on the error.
“It speaks a lot of the character of the kids on this team and the perseverance this team has,” PCM coach Jeff Lindsay said. “They never feel like they are out of a game. They truly believe they’ll have an opportunity to win if we are within three or four runs.”
The 2A District 12 bracket did not go as seeded. Fifth-seeded PCM plays No. 6 seeded East Marshall in the district championship at 7 p.m. Saturday in Pleasantville. East Marshall thumped second-seeded West Marshall 10-1 in the earlier game Tuesday.
“I know in the seeding meeting, we all felt like any one of our teams could win this thing,” Lindsay said. “It was going to come down to who got hot. No one thought anyone would run away with it. It seems like it was a competitive six teams. And this is why you play the games.”
It looked like PCM may run away with the win against top-seeded Pleasantville. The Mustangs got an early boost from freshman Caleb Duinink and sophomore Dane Owens. Both of them hit two-run home runs to right field to put the visitors up 4-0 in the second inning.
Van Dyke walked and stole second base to begin the frame. He scored on Duinink’s first career varsity home run.
Sophomore Derek Brown then singled with one out and scored on Owens’ first career blast.
Pleasantville starter Kyle Amendt struck out the side in the inning but the damage had already been done.
“It was awesome. I can’t put this into words,” Duinink said. “I wanted to play more. The team wants to play more. We don’t want to stop yet.”
Owens added, “It feels good to still be playing. I think it’s anyone’s game now. I don’t think we are done yet.”
After giving up the early lead, Amendt settled down. He held PCM to two base runners in the next three innings. That allowed the Trojans to catch back up.
Cael Lester started the bottom of the second with a solo home run, and then the home team plated four runs on three hits and one error in the third.
All four of those runs were earned against PCM senior Noah Henkenius, who started on the mound. He hit two batters in the inning, including one with the bases loaded.
Pleasantville took a 5-4 lead into the fourth and added to its lead with a pair of runs. This time, the runs were unearned as the Mustangs (12-13) committed a two-out error with the bases loaded. Henkenius did hit two more batters in that inning though.
“Noah has been there before. He’s a gritty competitor. He leads by example,” Lindsay said. “I asked him if his tank was empty when I visited the mound, and he said no. So then I told him to pitch like it wasn’t empty. It’s his last go around. He needs to just let it go and don’t hold anything back.”
Henkenius (3-3) got the win after pitching into the seventh inning. He allowed seven runs — five earned — on seven hits with one strikeout and four hit batters. He also is eligible to pitch in Saturday’s district final after tossing only 76 pitches against the Trojans.
Henkenius stranded a runner on second in the fifth and got out of a jam in the sixth. Pleasantville reached on two PCM errors in that frame, but Henkenius got out of the inning after inducing a ground ball to Van Dyke at shortstop.
He was removed after throwing one pitch — a ball — in the seventh inning.
“I rode him as long as I could. Once he threw that first ball in the seventh, I knew he was done so I pulled him then,” Lindsay said.
Henkenius was pulled after PCM took the lead in the top half of the seventh against Trojan reliever Colton Major.
They sent nine batters to the plate in the frame. Junior Reed Worth reached base for the first time in the game when Trojan centerfielder Devon Dursky dropped a fly ball. Junior Preston Van Wyk was then hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up a base on a passed ball.
With one out, junior Wes Cummings made it 7-5 with an RBI single. Another error in center field allowed Van Wyk to score and pull the Mustangs within 7-6 and then Cummings tied the game when he scored on another passed ball.
Duinink’s ground ball set up the final run but could have been a game-ending double play. Van Dyke scored on an error to give the Mustangs the lead for good.
“We just stuck with it. Anything can happen and we showed that again,” Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke is PCM’s designated closer. He came into the game after Henkenius started Major with a ball on his first pitch.
Van Dyke walked Major, got Caleb Adreon to ground out and then struck out Dursky looking. He loaded the bases though after walking Van Haalen and Grant Fouch.
That’s when Lindsay made the move to Brown, who got Amendt to line out to Van Dyke for the game-ending out.
“Derek has been on a little bit of a roll lately,” Lindsay said. “I wanted him to challenge the kid and not nibble with him. I give Noah a lot of credit for hanging in there and I give the other guys credit too for getting outs.”
Brown said he wanted the ball in the seventh when his team needed him to deliver.
“I just tried to trust them behind me and do my thing. It worked out,” Brown said. “When I saw that he caught it I went crazy. He snow-coned that ball. It was close.”
Van Dyke set the school record with six saves last season. He set the career saves record this season after closing out two games for the Mustangs. Not finishing the game Tuesday was frustrating for the Mustang junior, but Van Dyke made up for it with an impressive diving catch to end the game.
“I wanted to finish it. It’s been my thing. I just couldn’t seem to find the zone,” Van Dyke said. “I threw a lot of pitches out of the zone that I usually throw for strikes. It was frustrating.”
Brown earned his second save of the season and his earned run average has dropped significantly after the past few outings.
East Marshall was given the No. 6 seed after starting the season 5-14. But it has won seven straight games since that point and takes a 12-14 record into Saturday’s 2A District 12 championship game.
During the seven-game win streak, East Marshall has allowed two runs or fewer six times.
Brown and the Mustangs hope they are up for another challenge.
“We came in as the five seed so no one expected much from us,” Brown said. “But when we are on, we are a good team. We have worked our tails off and we deserve this.”