ASSUMPTION - Seven innings weren't enough to settle Thursday's game between Neoga and Central A&M.
Neither were three extra frames. In the bottom of the 11th, however, the Indians finally had their answer. After back-to-back singles from Guy Walk and Tim Yurs, Logan Rankin sent a missile of a grounder toward short, where it eluded a Raider defender. Rankin's rocket on the ground brought Walk home to give Neoga a 5-4 marathon win over the host team in the Central A&M Regional semifinal. “I don't even know that to say,” Indians coach Ted Kerner said. “I really don't, I'm really proud of those three boys that got those three good at-bats.”Neoga had generated just one hit since the sixth inning when Walk stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the 11th, struggling to get a grip of A&M's Zach Bugg, who entered in the fourth. Bugg had struck out eight already, but Walk, leading off for Neoga, got a single to drop in left field.Yurs, down 0-2 in the count one batter later, singled to right field that brought Walk all the way to third, giving the Indians runners on the corners with no outs.“Guy didn't even start the game,” Kerner said. “He comes in and gets the base hit, Tim gets a hit, then Logan comes up huge. You hit it hard on the ground, you're going to score in the situation.”Rankin's blast left the Raiders stunned, as they twice held a lead of two runs early in the game. Central A&M scored one run in each of the first two innings, before Neoga tallied a pair in the fourth off RBI singles from Kenton Albin and Briar True.With the score tied, the Raiders pushed back ahead by a deuce in the top of the fifth, and again, Neoga would even the score soon thereafter. In the bottom of inning five, Jake Baker connected on an RBI single up the middle, and Trevor Moore drove in a run on a sacrifice. Each time Central A&M thought it had an advantage, Neoga was there to open the door.“They were busting their butts the whole time, that's what I was most proud of,” Kerner said. “In the fourth and fifth, we scored two, they scored two, then we got (two) right back. You can't let teams regain the momentum and get that zero on you, it's a totally different ballgame at that point.”Having tied the game back up, the Indians' Tyler Romack entered the game in the seventh. Romack went on to pitch five shutout innings, surrendering no hits and striking out a whopping 10 batters to never allow the Raiders any sign of life.“I didn't realize that,” Kerner said of Romack's impressive day. “He did a fantastic job for us.”Riley Walk got the start for Neoga, pitching 4.1 innings with four runs and eight hits. Walk also struck out six.Michael Baker finished the game with a single and two doubles to lead Neoga (17-7) at the plate, and the Indians advanced to Saturday's regional title game with the dramatic win. Waiting for them is Windsor/Stew-Stras, a tough opponent that Kerner knows his team will have to play well to beat.“We're ready to go,” he said. “They have a really good team, but we're going to battle and see what happens.”First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m.