ELDRIDGE — It was a game the North Scott baseball team will never forget. It also had moments it would like to forget.
But when Jared Rus sped home from third on a throw that eluded the second baseman covering at first on a sacrifice, no one likely cared about anything other than the final result.
It meant an 8-7, 11-inning Class 4A substate win Friday night for North Scott over Burlington. The Lancers (23-15) are back at Lancer Stadium on Monday night to host Davenport West at 7 p.m.
“I told the kids this is what baseball is all about,” North Scott coach Blake Hanna said. “I told them before the game, ‘This is why you play the game of high school baseball, to be in sub-state games.’
“I didn’t ever envision it would be like this. But to pull through and win the game, they are going to remember this for the rest of their lives. This game, a great game.”
What they also will remember is somehow not scoring despite a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the 10th.
A great catch and throw by Grayhound right-fielder Everett Wilson nailed Tony Barreca at home plate. One out later, it was on to the 11th.
“(Adam) Sacia's one of our best hitters,” Hanna said of his decision to send Barreca on Sacia’s fly to mid right. “And Barreca’s one of our fastest runners. Wilson made a helluva throw. It was a great throw. It was a bang-bang play.”
In the 11th, Rus reached on an error by the shortstop. Ben Steidler’s bunt was so good between pitcher and first, it turned into a single.
So with two on and nobody out, Hanna had winning pitcher Kyle Dennison bunt. Losing pitcher Drake Hohenthaner fielded it cleanly and threw to first for what looked like it would be a simple sacrifice. But it went through the second baseman’s glove as he was stepping on the bag and bounced away and Rus raced home, ending the marathon.
“I just got on third base and coach told me, 'Go,'" Rus said. "I saw the ball get past the first baseman and just took off. I stopped at third and took a look at first base and saw they didn’t have the ball. I was surprised and took off.”
He scored easily to make a winner out of Denison, who had come on in the fifth and pitched well. He couldn't escape a jam in the fifth without giving up the lead run on Jake Shore’s double.
North Scott was in command early, up 5-0 through four innings behind the pitching of Ben Steidler.
Then, Burlington (12-24) mounted a rally.
Burlington’s Nick Hagen had a three-run double in the inning that included five hits by the Grayhounds. Hagen had four hits and a walk.
Denison hit a batter and gave up a single, but got a double play before Shore’s double. He settled down to eventually earn the win.
“Denison has pitched well all year,” Hanna said. “He comes in and he works fast, throws strikes and he challenges the hitters. I don’t think hitters get real comfortable on him. He did a great job.”
The ending was befitting of a game that lasted more than three hours.
“You get 11 innings in, kids are tired,” Hanna said. “You never know what’s going to happen when kids get tired. Luckily, our guy Rus was paying attention and heads up and scored on that. Things fell our way in that last inning.”