There was an abundance of emotion in the Geneva dugout during Tuesday’s Upstate Eight Conference crossover against Neuqua Valley.
The Vikings were without head coach Matt Hahn, whose 12-year-old son Drew had cancer surgery earlier in the day.
With pitching coach Fred Fortman taking over head coaching duties, the Vikings rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the Wildcats in the fifth inning and then got the walkoff win in the bottom of the seventh on Jack Wassel’s sacrifice fly to win 4-3.
“Matt taught them well through all the practices and the three games,” Fortman said. “They did a great job today.”
Neuqua Valley (1-5) continued to struggle with its bats, but jumped to a 3-0 lead thanks to some clutch two-out hitting.
The Wildcats scored in the second inning on a two-out double from Nolan Hicks and an RBI single from Nick Hilgemann. They added a pair of runs in the third inning. Tyler Tesmond drove in Alex DiFranco, who had bunted for a hit and stolen a base, and Matt Peters added a two-out RBI single.
“We’re scratching,” Wildcats coach Robin Renner said. “Every time we play, to get one run, two or three, we’re scratching and clawing and just poking and trying to generate a run somehow, some way, and it’s just hard.”
The Wildcats have only scored 16 runs.
Geneva (4-0, 1-0) tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Nate Montgomery and Nick Derr (1-for-1, three walks) singled with one out and scored on Ben Chally’s double. Wassel made it 3-3 with a sacrifice fly to score Chally.
Neuqua Valley had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth inning, but Geneva left fielder Garrett Davis gunned down pinch runner Kevin Hutt who tried to tag up on Hilgemann’s fly out.
“My philosophy is if it takes an absolute perfect play to throw somebody out we’re rolling those dice every single time,” Renner said. “If that ball was one foot either way, he’s safe.”
Wassel’s game-winning sacrifice fly was similar, as Tesmond caught his fly in left field and uncorked a throw to try to get Jason Croci, who had doubled to start the rally, but his throw sailed off target.
“He did what he needed to do both times,” Fortman said. “Bottom of the seventh, bases loaded, everybody’s emotions and hearts are pumping like crazy. (Tesmond) had a good arm in warm-ups but it was too good at that time. His heart took over and he sailed it which was lucky for us.”
Chally pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win.
The Vikings added green ribbons to their hats to honor Drew Hahn.
“We’re all family here,” Davis said. “We want to always keep him in mind and wear this to remind us to keep playing hard to honor him and bring awareness to this cause. It’s all in the name of Drew Hahn.”