The final score of Monday's Red Lion-Spring Grove baseball game provides no clue that the fans gathered at the Rockets' chilly field watched a high school classic for eight innings.
Red Lion won, 6-1, by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning, with the second extra inning needed to decide the outcome.
The first eight innings of the York-Adams Division I contest featured near-flawless fielding, clutch pitching and drama that had the spectators hanging on every pitch.
"That's the best game I've ever been involved with as far as coaching," Red Lion head coach Darren Hake said. "They (Spring Grove) executed what they wanted to do. They did not give us anything."
The Lions, who outhit the Rockets, 11-6, appeared ready to seize control when they loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth. However, Spring Grove pitcher Nick Spangler escaped the jam unscathed by retiring the next three hitters on a strikeout and two popups. Spangler did the honors on the second popup by catching the ball between the mound and home plate.
The Lions made another bid to break the 1-1 tie in the seventh, but Rockets' center fielder Colby Murphy saved his team by making a two-out, shoestring catch on a sinking liner with two runners on base.
Red Lion, though, wouldn't be denied in the ninth. With two men on base (via walks) and two outs, the Lions' Drew Landis came through by stroking a 3-1 pitch into center field to score the go-ahead run. Brady Taylor and Scott Rissler added insurance with two-run singles.
Landis, who was walked three times, once intentionally, went 2-for-2 (single and triple) and scored two runs.
"I knew he (Spangler) was down in the count (3-1), and I didn't know if he was going to walk me or not," the Red Lion catcher said. "He made a good pitch, but I was able to get the end of the bat on it. This was a great game to be part of. It's always fun to play against a team that good."
Landis' triple was his fourth of the season to go with four home runs.
"Drew, he's as hot as any player I've seen in a long time," Hake said. "He finds his pitch and drives it."
Landis delivered the winning hit, and Rissler earned the victory with eight terrific innings of work. Cody Godfrey pitched the ninth inning for the Lions, recording two strikeouts -- one looking, one swinging.
Rissler, who thought the first-pitch curveball he used to get ahead of a number of hitters was his most effective pitch, struck out four and walked three. He gave up three hits in the first inning, but allowed just three more over hits over the next seven innings.
"It was awesome to be part of this game," Rissler said. "We played nine innings against a very good team."
Hake lifted his starting pitcher after the left-hander threw 119 pitches.
"It was hard to leave, I wanted to go the whole game, but I knew that Cody (Godfrey) could do it," Rissler said.
Three players, Mike Godfrey, Landis and Taylor, supported Rissler with multi-hit games. Godfrey singled four times in five at bats.
"Mike (Godfrey) went up there with confidence, and he sat back and stroked the ball," said Rissler, who had two hits of his own.
Spangler and Dalton Hoiles cracked doubles for Spring Grove, and the Rockets' shortstop, Brandon Warner, turned in a fielding gem with an over-the-shoulder grab in the eighth.
Red Lion, which committed just one error, improved its league record to 5-1 and overall mark to 6-1. Spring Grove fell to 4-2 and 6-3.
The Lions are a half game ahead of Dallastown, which is 4-1 in league contests. South Western is tied with Spring Grove at 4-2.
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at dvanolin email@example.com or at 505-5407.