Curt Henson of Loara High School hit a two-out, solo home run in the top of the 14th inning at Servite Friday to give the Saxons a 3-2 victory, advancing them to the second round of Southern Section 4-A play.
Henson's drive off a Todd Cook fastball gave the Saxons the edge in a game that had been tied at 2-2 since the end of the seventh inning, helping to end a marathon that took 4 hours and 6 minutes to play.
"It was like playing two games, but we played the second game better than we played the first," Loara Coach Ray Moore said.
Loara trailed, 2-0, going into the seventh inning but rallied to tie the game. It weathered several challenges by Servite in extra innings before scoring the lead run on Henson's only hit of the game.
"I just sat back and hit it well," a relieved Henson said. "It was a fastball. On the first pitch, he threw a curveball and somebody behind the backstop said you couldn't ask for a better pitch (to hit)."
Cook did serve up a better pitch to hit, of course, but pitched brilliantly in relief, nonetheless. Cook took over for James Ferguson with one out in the seventh inning after Loara had scored two runs to tie the game.
Cook promptly retired the first two batters he faced and then gave up only two singles over the next seven innings before Henson's homer.
Initially, Servite's strategy of bringing Ferguson in to relieve starter Craig Barkley seemed sound. Ferguson has been an ace reliever for the Friars throughout the season and appeared to be a good bet to get the Saxons out in the last inning.
Loara had other plans, however, and got to Ferguson, who had visited a chiropractor earlier in the day for therapy on an out-of-place vertebrae. Ferguson never looked comfortable on the mound and lasted only five batters.
Said Henson: "Barkley had us well-contained. When he (Ferguson) came in, I thought they might get in a little trouble because we hit fast pitching well."
Ferguson struck out a batter and walked another before giving up a two-run homer to Loara's Mike Golia, tying the game and giving Loara the boost it had been looking for all game.
Before Golia's right-field shot, Loara had managed only four hits off Barkley and never advanced a runner past third base.
Part of the problem wasn't base runners so much as base running .
Loara baserunners challenged Servite catcher Jason Rolish and paid for it dearly. Over the first six innings, Rolish had four assists, throwing out two runners trying to steal and picking two others off second base.
Rolish also singled and scored a run in the sixth inning to help give the Friars their short-lived, 2-0 lead. Jay Speidel's home run to center field in the bottom of the first inning accounted for the Friars' other run.
Servite certainly had its chances to win the game in extra innings, though, as the Friars loaded the bases with no outs in the 12th inning and Mike Robertson hit doubles in the 10th, 12th and 14th innings but never was moved around.
Said Servite Coach Mike McNary: "Sometime this October, I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night thinking of what I should've done differently in the 11th or 12th innings. At least we got two games' worth of playoff experience out of it."