BIG ROCK – With runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hiawatha baseball team would have a chance to tie the game after trailing by two runs.
A balk and then a walk to Mike Mercado put the tying run 90 feet away.
In an effort to put the go-ahead run into scoring position and to try and take away the force out at second base, Mercado attempted to steal second base. The senior was thrown out, the game was over, and the Hawks fell to Arlington Heights Christian Liberty Academy, 3-2, in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional championship.
“We were half a step away from winning that game," Mercado said. "One half of a step lead more, we would win that game."
Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said that he wanted to take the force out away from the Chargers and that the call was on him.
“I’ll give you the call and you follow it. If it doesn’t work out, it is on me,” Donnelly said. “And on that situation, it is on me. We want to be aggressive and that is what we have done all year.”
This final play of the contest was not the deciding factor in the Hawks loss. Hiawatha trailed from the first inning onward when Christian Liberty scored its first run. The Chargers scored two more runs the third inning to take a 3-0 lead.
The Hawks got on the board with a run in the fourth, when Gage Grant knocked in Taylor Edwards with an RBI single. Over the final three innings, the leadoff hitter for the Hawks reached base – but only one came into score.
“We could have hit the ball better," Mercado said. "Our pitching was fine, we just needed more offensive putout."
Credit Will Corn, who came into pitch in the fourth inning in relief of Mercado. Corn threw four shutout innings and struck nine Christian Liberty batters to keep the game close.
“I give the kids a lot of credit. They fought their tails off. They have never given up,” Donnelly said. “It is a shame that it had to end this way. There had to be a winner and there had to be a loser, just came up on the wrong end.”
Hiawatha finished with five hits. Jace Williams finished 2 for 3 for the Hawks. Adam Spear, Pancho Garcia and Grant all recorded a hit apiece.
“I have played with these kids since like the third grade. I am just going to miss these guys,” Mercado said. “Regardless of winning or losing, this is my family.”