GRUNDY CENTER - It's not over until it's over.
Sometimes, all it takes is a couple of walks, a blooper or two and a long ball.
The Northeast Hamilton baseball team was staring right into the eyes of the offseason here Saturday evening, and then everything changed.
Trailing AGWSR Ackley 6-0 after 5 innings and down to their final six outs in a Class 1A District 11 first-round contest, the Trojans mounted their finest rally of the season to stun the Cougars, 7-6 in 8 innings.
NEH (8-18) put up five runs in the last half of the sixth to jump right back into contention, tied the game at 6 with a run in the seventh and then celebrated in the eighth courtesy of a walk-off base hit by Stephen Chamness.
"We've had a rough year and down 6-0 in the sixth, the kids could have said enough is enough," NEH head coach Brandon Kelley said. "That's why I'm so happy because they just kept battling. We just kept challenging the kids to make something happen, and in that sixth inning they finally did."
AGWSR010 212 00-6 7 0
Northeast Hamilton000 005 11-7 5 5
Clayton Bohner, Ryan Rotgers (7) and Austin Williams. Marcus Mechaelsen and Gabe Rapp. W-Mechaelsen. L-Rotgers. HR-NEH: Mechaelsen. RBI-NEH: Mechaelsen (2), Stephen Chamness, Jacob Ratzke, Mark Frohwein.
The sixth-inning rally began with back-to-back one-out walks to Gabe Rapp and Austin Smith. Jacob Ratzke followed with an RBI bloop base hit, Andy Pate drove in another run on a groundout, and Mark Frohwein cut the deficit to 6-3 with another single.
The momentum changer came next, as senior Marcus Mechaelsen unleashed a two-run bomb over the fence in left-center field to pull the Trojans within one.
"Once Marcus hit that home run, you could kind of see the Ackley kids deflate a little bit," Kelley said.
Chamness knotted the game in the seventh when he tagged up from third and scored on a shallow RBI sac fly off the bat of Smith. And an inning later, with the bases jammed, Chamness rocked a Ryan Rotgers pitch into left-center to bring Pate to the dish with the winning run.
Four of the Trojans' five hits came in the final three innings. Logan Seiser had the team's only hit - a single - in the initial five innings.
Mechaelsen went all eight innings on the mound to push NEH into Tuesday's district quarterfinal against Gladbrook-Reinbeck (15-11). The senior gave up seven hits and just two earned runs; he walked five and struck out 10.
"Marcus was outstanding," Kelley said. "He wasn't getting a lot of help from his defense early in the game (NEH committed five errors in the contest), but he really kept his composure and kept battling."
The Trojans and Rebels will meet back on the Grundy Center High School diamond on Tuesday at 5 p.m.