Baseball: Hall uses ‘pickle play’ to advance to sectional final

Payton Dye, Red Devils advance with 1-0 win in semifinals

Hall first baseman Dom Galetti puts his arm around catcher Kyler Lapp as the Red  Devils walk off in smiles after defeating the Lewistown Valley Cuba co-op 1-0 in Thursday's Class 2A sectional semifinals in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE - The Hall Red Devils got themselves in a real pickle during Thursday’s Class 2A Knoxville Sectional semifinal game.

And it was a good thing.

The Red Devils manufactured a run with an intentional rundown play in the second inning and threw out a Lewistown Valley Cuba co-op runner at home in the fourth inning.

That one run was all the support junior right-hander Payton Dye would need, as he shut the Miners out on four hits for a 1-0 victory, sending the Red Devils to Saturday’s championship game.

“It feels good. We came into this game not knowing exactly who this team was, and we put up a fight like we have all year,” said Hall third baseman and clean-up man Joel Koch, who scored the game’s only run.

“We got the walk-off lead call, (Meagher) took off, got in a pickle, and I jumped on the pitcher’s throw.”

—  Joel Koch, Hall baseball

Hall (22-8) will meet Sherrard (25-6) for the sectional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday. Sherrard beat Macomb 5-3 in Wednesday’s semifinals and rallied to beat host Princeton 3-2 for the regional championship.

“Obviously, they’re here, they’re good,” Hall coach Tom Keegan said. “Never played them (this year). Both teams had make-up games for conference games, if I remember right. Supposed to see them on a Friday. Regardless, who it is, we’re happy to be playing Saturday.”

Koch led off the home half of second inning with a single and stole second. He took third when Hunter Meagher reached on a two-out error.

Meagher teased LVC pitcher Connor Smith on the first pitch to Evan Stefaniak with a little step-off from first base. On the next pitch, Meagher fully walked off first, intentionally drawing the attention of Smith, who stepped off the mound and threw to second.

Meagher got himself in a pickle between bases, and Koch broke for home, sliding in safely ahead of the tag on Meagher to give Hall a 1-0 lead

“We got the walk-off lead call, (Meagher) took off, got in a pickle, and I jumped on the pitcher’s throw,” said Koch, noting the Red Devils work on that “pickle play” in practice.

Hall also executed in the field to perfection when LVC threatened in fourth inning, putting two men on with one out. Josh Arnett reached on an error, and Jace Weaver singled.

Hall first baseman Dom Galetti dove to field a ball to his right hit by Brody Thum and flipped to Dye covering the base. Thum beat the throw to first, and Arnett rounded third and broke for home. Dye turned and fired to catcher Kyler Lapp for the out.

“It was good that I saw that and kind of kept with the play. So that was good that we had that and got him and a good tag by Kyler,” said Dye, who had teammates yelling to throw home.

Keegan said everyone did their job.

“How about Dom Galetti at first base for laying out, stopping that ball? Payton’s over there for bag coverage if that one gets through or we’re probably still playing. Little bit of everybody today,” Keegan said.

Dye hit the next LVC batter, Logan Riopelli, with a pitch, but caught Jackson Gibboney looking to leave the bases loaded.

The Miners (20-6) managed just one more baserunner the rest of the way, with Dye retiring the last four batters he faced to send Hall into the sectional finals.

“It starts with Payton. He had a day,” Keegan said. “He had two pitches working for him. He was able to play off his curveball. He was able to command the curveball. Seems like the fastball has a little more giddy-up when that’s in effect.

“He was dealing today. Hat’s off to him.”

Dye, who struck out a batter in every inning except for the third, finishing with eight for the game, was happy to find an old friend, his curveball.

“It feels great to go out there and have everything,” he said. “I’ve had trouble with the curveball lately. To be there for me today and have that second pitch really helped me get through it. It felt good out of the hand. Gave me confidence to have that to go to.”

“He’s been very consistent all year. Takes control every game,” Koch said.

Resetich and Koch each had two hits to lead the Red Devils at the plate.

LVC pitcher Connor Smith scattered five hits and struck out three.

Hall won its only sectional in 2018 on its way to the Class 2A state championship, a game watched by this group of current Red Devils then in grade school.

“It feels good to go back there with this team. Good group of guys and ready to get it done,” Dye said.