SHILOH — Wednesday was a roller-coaster evening for both Jefferson and Shiloh, and just like any good thrill ride, the payoff was worth it.
The two teams arrived at Shiloh to resume the deciding game in the best-of-3 Central League first-round playoff series. The two rivals had battled to a 4-4 draw on Tuesday before darkness ended the affair after seven innings.
After getting an extra 30 minutes to allow some of their players to get to the field, the Titans, improbably, were able to scratch across two runs with two outs and no one on base in the top of the eighth. Moments later, the visitors found themselves just one out away from completing a series-clinching victory.
But, in a microcosm of their season, the Titans couldn't finish the job after a good start.
Shiloh rallied back — with two outs and no one on base — to tie the score at 6-6 when Dillon Schwartzer doubled in Brandon Wetzel. After Brock Gladfelter reached on an infield single, Jacob Molison drove a 2-1 pitch into center field to score Schwartzer, sending the Shockers to an unlikely 7-6 victory.
Shiloh, the No. 3 seed in the bracket, will travel to face No. 2 seed Mount Wolf at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in Game 1 of a best-of-3 semifinal series. Stoverstown will visit regular-season champion Glen Rock at the same time in the opener of the other semifinal series.
"This was amazing, wasn't it?" Shiloh manager Bubba Krout said. "They scored two runs with two outs and we scored (three) with two outs and nobody on. I just can't say enough about these guys here, who battled hard and battled to the end."
Titans scramble for players, but start quickly: For a little while, it appeared as if the self-proclaimed Shockers were on the cusp of receiving a forfeit victory. The game was originally scheduled to start at 5:45 p.m. but was moved back to 6:15 p.m. to give the Titans a chance to get their guys to the field in time.
With acting manager Pat Schultz scrambling to get updates from players who were on their way to the field, the Titans were able to get enough guys to control the action at the start. Facing Shiloh reliever Cash Gladfelter, the Titans made two quick outs before rallying. Jordan Witmer started the action with a single. Jordan Watkins followed with a single to left before Scott Trail singled in Witmer. Back-to-back walks to Tyler Troxel and Steven Gentile III forced in a second run.
Krout took the ball from Gladfelter in favor of veteran Greg Kinneman. The right-handed reliever needed just two pitches to force a fly out by Brian Bossom to end the frame.
Shiloh storms back: Kurt Seiders, who finished the last inning of Tuesday's play, got a strikeout and pop out in the infield to get into position to close things out. But Michael Santiago reached on a throwing error by the shortstop and scored when Wetzel ripped a single to center.
Two pitches later, Schwartzer smashed a gapper into the left-center alley to even the score. After falling behind Gladfelter 3-0 in the count, Seiders worked the count full, with Gladfelter fouling off a couple pitches. But Gladfelter was able to bounce a ball over the head of Seiders that died in the infield just in front of second. Gladfelter beat the throw to first.
That brought Molison to the plate in a big-time situation. It's a scenario that Krout believes his slugger is well-suited for most of the time.
"When Moly is swinging the bat well, he can carry a team," Krout said.
Admitting some nerves, the Spring Grove grad smoked a liner that eluded the shortstop's glove to send Shiloh to a thrilling victory.
"At first I thought (Watkins) was going to catch it because he's a pretty tall guy," Molison said. "But luckily it just went over his head. It was just awesome. What a great effort by this team."
Bitter pill for Jefferson: For Schultz and company, this was just a little more of the same. After starting the season at 11-5, the Titans limped into the playoffs at 15-17-1. So starting out both Tuesday and Wednesday with two-run innings, only to fall in the end, was a bitter pill.
"At least it was decided on the field," Schultz said. "So I'm happy about that. I thought we had it there. But, honestly, this has happened to us a lot this year. We get our chances and it just falls apart in the end. And I feel bad for Kurt, too, because he's lost a couple games just like that this year. He doesn't deserve it, but they hit the ball when they were supposed to. We gave them one base runner and they took advantage of it."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.