There are only so many times a high school baseball coach can watch his pitcher run the count full with the bases loaded and the winning run on third.
But Matt Arens bailed his Remsen St. Mary's coaches and teammates out with a pair of strikeouts to keep the game tied through seven innings and the Hawks erupted for three runs in the top of the eighth to defeat cross-town rival Remsen-Union 11-8 in Thursday's Class 1A District 2 semifinal.
"The mark of a good team is to be able to battle back from adversity and come out ahead," Klein said. "That's exactly what we did."
The hard-fought grudge match was something the Hawks weren't really expecting, RSM sophomore Beau Pick said.
The pesky Rockets, who battled back in the seventh to defeat Akron-Westfield in their district opener, did the same on Thursday. R-U entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 8-4, but used two errors and an RBI double from Reece Harnack to plate four runs and tie the contest. With the score tied at 8-8 and Arens working in relief of starter Andrew Portz, a walk to Colby Felts loaded the bases with one out. But Arens struck out the next two hitters to preserve the contest.
Zane Schroeder got RSM started in the eighth inning with a one-out double and scored along with Billy Steichen one out later on Beau Pick's two-run triple. Arens nailed down the win in the bottom of the frame.
R-U, which finishes the season at 7-19, saw its Cinderella two-game run at the district tournament come to an end.
"It says a lot about our kids to come back two nights in a row like they did against two quality opponents," R-U coach Steve Neuberger said. "Unfortunately, the well ran a little dry. The magic had to run out sometime I guess and unfortunately it happened tonight."
Klein was not surprised at the Rockets' intestinal fortitude, which brought them to the brink of a stunning cross-town upset.
"When a team's hot, a team's hot," Klein said. "I would say (Remsen-Union was) hot. They put the bat on the ball, even with two strikes. They didn't overswing or anything."
R-U will lose only Brad Hodgen to graduation and Neuberger hopes his team's impressive showing at the district tournament will help them build momentum heading into next season.
"You'd like to think so," he said. "All of sudden our guys proved to themselves that they can compete with War Eagle teams. I know that was a big question mark coming into the season. Everyone was telling us how good of baseball the War Eagle is and it is an outstanding baseball conference. All of sudden we proved we can compete with two of the better teams in that conference and we got a lot of guys coming back."
The back-and-forth contest saw the Hawks take a 2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs in the first. R-U erupted for four runs in the bottom of the fourth thanks to RBI singles by Cam Kuchel and Felts to lead 4-2. But RSM answered with six runs in the fifth, an inning highlighted by Pick's first two-run triple of the evening.
That's how it stayed until the seventh as the teams combined to strand 25 runners on the base paths.
Pick finished 3-for-4 with a double, two triples and four runs batted in. His three extra-base hits came in his final three at-bats and went to the same gap in right-center.
"They were pitching me outside all night and I just figured I'd go with the pitch," Pick said. "(I) hit it out to right field and (saw) what I could do."
Tanner Kockler had three hits and scored three times while Cody Colling had two hits to lead RSM.
Arens picked up the win in relief of Portz while Kuchel took the loss for R-U in relief of Jake Scheitler, who allowed eight runs - one earned - in 4 2/3 innings of work.
Josh Bohnenkamp had two hits and scored twice while Kuchel added two hits and an RBI to lead the Rockets.
Scheitler also had two hits.