BIG ROCK – Dillon Martenson went into the Indian Creek dugout and high-fived his teammates.
The Timberwolves’ fans at Kenny Field cheered, thinking their team had taken the lead. Joe Piekarz’s baseball squad figured it was three outs away from beating Hinckley-Big Rock and advancing to a Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional final.
Indian Creek (14-13) had appeared to score the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning when Ricky Cruise reached base on an error by Royals pitcher Cory Bradburn. The first base umpire ruled H-BR first baseman Colin Goodson pulled his foot off the base and called Cruise safe.
Not so fast. The Royals appealed, and the home plate umpire – who was farther away from the play – said Goodson had his foot on the bag and called Cruise out. In the bottom of the inning, H-BR walked off with a 2-1 semifinal win when Bradburn scored on an error by Timberwolves third baseman David Rueff.
The second-seeded Royals (21-10) advance to Saturday’s regional final, where they will face top-seeded Somonauk at 11 a.m.
“It was a bad call. Didn’t go our way,” Piekarz said. “But you have to play through those things, and there’s going to be bad calls throughout the game. Some go for you, some go against you.
“That one just happened to not go our way, and you have to try and play through it because there’s nothing you can do about it once it’s called.”
The controversial play started when Bradburn dived to his right and snared Cruise’s ground ball. He turned and threw to Goodson, who had to lunge to his left to reach for the throw.
When the first base umpire ruled Cruise safe, Royals coach Matt Olson asked for an appeal.
“From where we were at it looked like Goodson’s foot was on first base,” Olson said. “Regardless of the call, either way I’m glad the umpire at least asked for an appeal. I know that’s got to be heartbreaking for Indian Creek.”
Goodson maintained that his foot was on the base.
“I brought my glove back to make sure, but I knew I had [the foot] on the bag,” he said.
In the bottom of the eighth, H-BR loaded the bases, thanks to two walks, one of them intentional, and an error. With nobody out, shortstop Christian Johnsen hit a hard ground ball right at Rueff, who couldn’t handle it. Bradburn scored the winning run easily.
Rueff was in the game because of an injury to Timberwolves catcher Robert Johnson, who was hurt after being picked off in the fourth inning. With Johnson out of the game, starting third baseman Tim Sommerfeld moved behind the plate.
Martenson, Indian Creek’s starting pitcher, gave up five hits in a complete game. He allowed one hit over the final five innings.
Goodson said the break H-BR caught in the top of the eighth gave the Royals some much-needed momentum for the bottom of the inning.
“I think it just gave us a kick start,” Goodson said. “We were struggling through the whole game and from there on, we took it.”
Bradburn threw all eight innings for H-BR, allowing only five hits. He finished the game with nine strikeouts while improving to 7-1.
“Once he settled down, got his nerves under control, he was dominant on the hill,” Olson said. “He’s been our ace, and we look at him as a leader.”