Glenwood and Monroe fought to a draw for more than three hours Thursday night.
But in Game 2 of their state semifinal playoff matchup, the Gators came up on the short end of a 1-0 decision. Monroe right fielder Caleb Smith led off the bottom of the 13th with a stand-up double. Two batters later, catcher Lane Powell brought him home on a walkoff single to force the AISA Class 3A state semifinal series to a deciding game Friday morning at 10.
It was a far cry from Game 1, when Glenwood put on a dominating offensive performance in a 14-4 victory that was shortended to five innings due to the mercy rule.
But Glenwood coach Tim Fanning could only lament that his team wasted a superlative effort by starting pitcher Lawson Humphries, who threw 10 shutout innings in the nightcap.
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"But you have to give them credit," he said. "They did what they were supposed to do and made the plays."
The contest would have ended five innings earlier if not for a web gem from Humphries. With a runner on third and only one out in the bottom of the eighth, Powell smoked a line drive right at Humphries. Humphries swiped the ball out of the air and fired over to third base for an inning-ending double play.
If not for a missed opportunity offensively, the Gators (33-10) wouldn't have needed such a dazzling play from Humphries. In the top of the sixth, Glenwood loaded the bases with just one out.
Back-to-back strikeouts followed, taking the Gators' best chance to score with it.
"We can't continue to leave guys on base or we're going to be in the same position tomorrow," Fanning said. "I expect (Glenwood's starting pitcher Friday, Carson) Hicks to come out and pitch his tail off and we've just got to have a good approach at the plate. We just couldn't get anything going."
In the opener, the Gators put 10 runs on the board before the Volunteers (24-15) even got a hit. The lion's share of the runs came in the third inning, when Glenwood scored eight times. That inning was highlighted by a mammoth three-run home run from Chad Silvani, which cleared the first row of trees located beyond the fence.
It was the longest homer run Fanning could recall in the last three seasons at Glenwood's park.
"It's the farthest one I've seen since the bats were changed," he said. "We used to have those 'trampoline bats' where we used to hit them over the top of the trees and the lights all the time. But that has to be the farthest one since then."
And the coach couldn't say enough about his offense as a whole.
"We came out swinging," he said. "That was their No. 1 (Blane Lee) that we 10-runned (rule)."
Defensively, the Gators got an efficient performance from Tanner Thomason, who worked all five innings, giving up three hits and allowing only four runs. The Volunteers got their first hit in the fourth inning, when Dent Stallworth came up with double that brought home a pair of runs. Despite being overpowering at times, it wasn't vintage Thomason. In his three previous home starts, he hadn't allowed a single earned run.
Fanning admitted Thomason's location wasn't up to his usual spectacular standards.
"He's been sick all week and he gutted it out and just battled," Dennis said. "He didn't give up a lot of hits. He just didn't have the control he normally has. He's been fantastic all year, so I expected him to battle through it."
With Hicks getting the starting nod Friday morning, he'll attempt to take the Gators back to a familiar place: the state championship series. Glenwood has won 14 state titles in its history, but none since 2011, the last of a three-peat that started in 2009.
If the Gators are going to get the opportunity for No. 15, they'll lean on the same unit they have all season: the starting rotation.
"We've been great all year and I don't expect anything less than that," Fanning said. "One through five in our rotation, we're really good. So I expect that we'll come out and throw strikes and make plays. I think it's just going to depend on what kind of mental approach we come ready with in the morning. Whoever is ready mentally in the morning will win."