Friday night's North Iowa Cedar League West Division matchup between South Tama County and West Marshall will simply be remembered as the game that would not end.
In fact, it never has. There were more than nine innings of baseball played and a 95-minute lightning delay, but the game between the two leading NICL West teams isn't over yet.
The contest reached its end during the bottom of the 10th inning. West Marshall broke a 3-3 tie with four runs in the top of the inning. South Tama got through one batter before lightning and an incoming storm forced the umpires to call for a 30-minute lightning delay. Several minutes later, both head coaches agreed to call the over for the night as the storm was quickly approaching.
South Tama senior Sam Kuhter pitched Friday night against West Marshall. Kuhter threw nine innings, allowing two hits and two earned runs, while striking out 14 and walking six batters. The game was suspended in the 10th inning with West Marshall leading 7-3.
"We just have to bounce back," STC coach Seth Koch said. "It's like I told the kids, 'Keep in mind, you're still undefeated in the conference. Technically, you're still undefeated in the conference, because this game isn't over yet.' We'll have to see where we can get this made up."
Friday night was scheduled to be a doubleheader between the top two teams in the NICL West. The first game of the season, which was scheduled to be played on May 28 in State Center, was rained out. Now the two teams will try and schedule another make-up date for the final game and finish to the opener.
"If we can find a date," Koch said. "Jerod (Brown) and I haven't even talked yet. I know the next two weeks for us are totally locked up. We may have to look at putting it on a Saturday, which I hate putting games of that magnitude on a Saturday."
When the two teams meet up again, starting pitchers Sam Kuhter (STC) and Jared Riemenschneider (West Marshall) won't be able to pitch any innings in either game. Both players used their full nine innings during the game Friday.
"They would be ineligible to throw when we play, because it reverts back to this day," Koch said. "They've technically thrown this day and it's the same 24-hour period."
STC senior Kuhter allowed two hits and two earned runs in nine innings and struck out 14 while walking six.
West Marshall senior Jared Riemenschneider pitched eight innings, but went into the ninth inning, and allowed three earned runs on four hits and six walks. He also struck out three.
"I've always said baseball is the toughest game there is to play mentally," Koch said. "We sit through an hour and 15 minute delay and it's a tight ballgame when that happens. You look at the two pitching performances between Riemenschneider and Kuhter. They matched each other inning for inning. It was just a great ballgame. I'm not sure I've been a part of a better one in 24 years of coaching high school baseball. You have to give the kids some credit for hanging in there."
With the game tied 3-3 after eight innings, both teams were desperately wanting one run to break the tie. West Marshall went three-up, three-down in the ninth inning with a ground out, pop out and strike out.
South Tama responded with Kuhter earning a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth inning. He stole second base and went to third base on a sacrifice bunt by junior Nate Hala. However, the home Trojans couldn't get Kuhter home as they grounded out and struck out with the bottom of the lineup.
STC senior Tank Keckler came in to relieve Kuhter, who couldn't throw any more Friday. Keckler struggled as the visiting Trojans began hitting the ball in the 10th inning. He will be handed the loss if STC cannot rally in the bottom of the 10th inning. Keckler allowed four runs on four hits and two walks before freshman Colson Frakes ended the inning with three straight outs.
"That's baseball," Koch said. "It could happen to anybody on any level. Unfortunately, it happened to us."
In the bottom of the 10th inning, STC junior Kolton Smith led off with a pop out to the WM shortstop. Senior Kaleb Davenport was at the plate when the umpires called the game because of lightning.
"It was the end of the week for us," Koch said. "It was going to be our fifth and sixth games of the week. We had run out of some arms. We had some kids that could not throw tonight. We decided to go with the senior in Tank and throw him out there. (West Marshall) hit the ball. You have to give them credit. They put the ball in play and things happen. They got timely hits. Right now, they're up 7-3 in the 10th inning."
West Marshall was the first team to score Friday night. WM's Jake Pszanka came up to bat with one out in the third inning. He reached first on a fielder's choice, stole second base and scored on an RBI single to give the road Trojans a 1-0 lead.
South Tama responded in the bottom of the inning. With two outs already, Smith hit a double to left-centerfield. Davenport followed him with a hard-hit ground ball that turned into a single. The West Marshall infielder committed an error throwing home when
Smith scored, tying the game 1-1.
Pszanka was walked in the sixth and eighth innings. He scored in both innings for the road team. He scored on an error, giving West Marshall a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning.
STC tied the game in the bottom of the seventh and forced extra innings. Kuhter led off the inning with a walk, after fouling off several pitches. Hala hit another sacrifice bunt to move Kuhter to second base. Senior Noah Bearden walked to give STC a second baserunner. Frakes followed Bearden with a bunt, but was thrown out at first. With the infielders focused on Frakes and out of position, Kuhter rounded third base and scored.
Pszanka walked to lead off the eighth and then went to second on a teammate's single. The road Trojans took the lead when Pszanka scored after the ball got away from STC sophomore Grant Koch on an attempted pick off at first base.
South Tama once again extended the game in its half of the eighth inning. Smith led off with a single and then advanced to second on an error and took third on a sacrifice bunt by Davenport. Koch eventually brought him in with a sacrifice fly to right field.
"We scored a run when we needed to," Koch said. "We were down twice and came back. You have to feel good about the kids digging deep and making something happen here."