HUNTINGTON BEACH — Three nines lit up the scoreboard when it got too dark for the Costa Mesa National Little League team to keep playing Ocean View on Wednesday.
They say cats have nine lives, but which Minor A baseball team will stay alive in the District 62 Tournament of Champions?
When the two teams resume play at Wardlow Park on Thursday at 4 p.m., the score at the start of the ninth inning will be even at 9-9.
"We can come for 10 minutes and lose and go home," Costa Mesa Manager Brian Lord said, "or you could win the game and stay here for another baseball game."
That next game both teams are hoping to reach is a semifinal set for 5 p.m. against Robinwood.
It might be pushed back the way Costa Mesa and Ocean View battled for eight innings on Wednesday. They played two extra innings and they might have gone a couple of more if there had been lights.
Costa Mesa had an opening-round bye in the tournament, but don't be shocked if it ends up playing an equivalent of three games in a 24-hour span. The Tar Heels could've avoided seeing Ocean View again if they had held on to a 6-1 lead in the third inning.
Christian Muniz gave Costa Mesa its biggest advantage by belting a two-run home run to left field. In the next three innings, Ocean View rallied and took a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
That's when it got wild, as in three wild pitches allowed Costa Mesa baserunner Dylan Delaney to come around and score from first base. He tied the game and sent it to extra innings.
The opportunities were there for Costa Mesa to finish Ocean View. In the sixth, the Tar Heels had runners on third and second, but Noah Madole got out of trouble, striking out a batter looking for the third out.
Going into the seventh it was all sevens, but not for long.
An error and a single brought in two runs for Ocean View, giving it a 9-7 advantage, its largest of the contest. No lead was safe, though.
Costa Mesa's Tanner Hastings led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. He made it home because of three wild pitches, cutting the deficit to one.
With a pitching change, left-handed batter Nolan Weisser faced a lefty with two out and a runner on third. Weisser hung in there and went the other way to drive in the game-tying run on a bloop single.
At the top of the eighth, Grant L'Heureux replaced Muniz, who pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief. He mowed down the first two batters he faced and then induced the next one to groundout.
The Tar Heels hurried into the dugout. Time was running out because it began to get dark.
Costa Mesa had the chance to turn the lights off for good on Ocean View when it had runners on second and first with one out and its No. 4 and 5 hitters up next.
Ocean View staved off elimination, thanks to Kai Marden. The lefty struck out the heart of the Tar Heels' lineup. The final strike called was a bit controversial.
"[The pitch was] low and it bounced kind of in," Lord said. "But that's how it is. I got to teach the kids just to shake it off and we got to be here tomorrow.
"We haven't had an extra-inning game all season, so it's been exciting."