A storybook school year for Hebron coach John Steinhilber, that included a sectional title in basketball and baseball and a regional in baseball, fell just shy of ending at Victory Field in Indianapolis with the Hawks' 5-4, nine-inning loss to Northfield on Saturday at Coveleski Stadium in South Bend.
"We weren't expected to go next week," Steinhilber said. "Nobody expected us to go this far. Our kids busted their tails for nine innings. It just wasn't meant to be."
Notably, pitcher Cody Hayes threw 147 pitches before exiting in the eighth inning.
"I would've loved to have stayed with him, but at that pitch count, I couldn't in all good conscience," Steinhilber said.
Just to prove the baseball gods can be cruel, Hayes was on the glove end of the ground ball that got away to bring in the winning run.
"It was a great year," Hayes said. "It was a pleasure to play with everyone on the team. I liked every second of it."
Boing, boing, boing: The synthetic turf surface at Coveleski caused headaches for Hebron and Northfield fielders all game with its live bounces.
"I've played on (artificial turf) a few times," Hebron's Kyle Joyce said. "It's tricky, especially in the outfield. You don't want to charge the ball and have it go over your head. You've just got to get used to it."
Would the bouncer to Hayes at first base that ended the game been different on grass?
"We haven't played on turf," Steinhilber said. "It was an in-between hop on a foreign surface. That wasn't it. We needed to get more hits."
Speed check: The speed gun was active on the Coveleski scoreboard. Northfield's Ryan Keaffaber (15-0) topped out at 84 miles per hour, Hayes at 81, though both got most of their strikeouts on curve balls.
"I was sitting on his fastball the first few at-bats," Joyce said. "He started going to his off-speed a little more later."
Out of the bush: Chase Fieldhouse, a .448 hitter for Lake Central with nine doubles and four homers this season, was intentionally walked three times Saturday by Zionsville, including in the ninth inning to put two runners on base. Austen Wagoner was hit by a pitch in the ninth to load the bases and set up Ryan Pachowicz's go-ahead RBI.
"Walking Chase Fieldhouse, four times, three times, that was bush league," L.C. coach Jeff Sandor said. "Pitch to the kid. Go after him, be tough in that situation. ... I trust my guys. Look at a kid, even if he hits .450 on a season, law of averages, he's 1-for-1, he's going to make an out."
LOBbed: Lake Central left 11 runners on base in nine innings against Zionsville. Twice, the Indians were caught out at home plate and in three innings, their first hit came with two out.
"We left runners all game and left them, and left them and left them, then it took a hit by pitch to get the runners across," Sandor said. "I took a chance away from us that one inning, I read a ball over the shortstop's head and I forget sometimes they have an Ohio State-bound shortstop that's got a pretty darn good arm."
Northfield prevailed despite stranding 17, including bases loaded four times.