TINLEY PARK | The last out of a baseball game is generally considered the toughest to get.
Sometimes, that out never comes.
Homewood-Flossmoor had Friday's 4A Andrew Sectional semifinal baseball game with Lincoln-Way North all but won. The Vikings led 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs. Pitcher Dan Lietz had allowed only four hits to that point, and only one of those hits had made it out of the infield.
The Phoenix had put their first two runners on base in the seventh inning with hits, but the hard-throwing Lietz responded with a strikeout of pinch hitter Josh Reid and then got Corey Krupske to line out to Viking shortstop Ben Kirchler.
Then the bottom fell out.
The Phoenix rallied and managed to get the next seven batters on base with a mixture of walks, an error and four hits, including a single by Josh Handzik that scored Jack Troike and closed out an improbable 6-5 victory for the Phoenix.
Lincoln-Way North (33-5) will face Marist today at 11 a.m. in the Andrew Sectional championship game. For the stunned Vikings (22-12), the loss closed out their season one win short of the school's first trip to a sectional final baseball game.
"It's a heartbreaking loss," Vikings coach Todd Sippel said. "It is hard to handle. A five-run lead with Danny on the mound. I thought it would be enough, but that is baseball. There is no time clock out there."
The six-run seventh inning by the Phoenix and a four-run inning in the top of the sixth inning by the Vikings erased what had been for most of the game, a pitcher's duel between Lietz and Jake McCabe.
The Vikings manufactured a run in the third inning without a hit by executing a double-steal with two outs that scored Kirchler. The Vikings, however, did not get their first hit of the game until a single by Elon Chamberlain began the Vikings four-run sixth inning that included a 2-RBI single by David Stern.
Phoenix reliever Bo Venezio closed out the Vikings' seventh inning with Teddy Romas on third base. Lietz threw 149 pitches in the loss, a pitch count Sippel said Lietz had reached before.
"I didn't have my great stuff today, but I had enough to get it done," said Lietz, who struck out 11 batters. "After the sixth inning, I thought we had the game. I just didn't see the next inning coming."