Baseball: Dixon survives chaotic 8th inning to advance to regional final

Dukes score 6 times in extras and beat Freeport 9-7

Dixon’s Alex Harrison fires a pitch against Freeport Thursday, May 23, 2024 during the Class 3A regional semifinal in Dixon.

DIXON – What started as a pitchers’ duel became a chaotic, run-filled finish at Thursday’s Class 3A Dixon Regional baseball semifinal between Dixon and Freeport.

The fifth-seeded Dukes (18-11) scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning and held on to beat the fourth-seeded Pretzels 9-7 at Veterans Memorial Field. They face top-seeded Sycamore in Saturday’s regional final at 2 p.m.

Freeport flew out with two runners on base to end the game in dramatic fashion.

The game was nip and tuck for seven innings as Dixon senior starting pitcher Alex Harrison went toe-to-toe with Freeport senior Zachary Arnold.

“That’s just a great baseball game,” Dixon coach Jason Burgess said. “When you get two kids like that going at it and hitting-wise, both teams competing at the plate, both pitchers were just battling. That part was awesome.”

Harrison pitched to his limit with two outs in the seventh and struck out 11, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks. Freeport tied the score at 3 with a Payton Woker sacrifice fly to force extras, but Dixon refocused and batted around in the eighth.

“We didn’t quit,” Burgess said. “For the boys to persevere and do that, I just can’t be more proud of them. But it really just comes down to how Alex kept us in that ballgame the whole way through.”

Freeport took a 1-0 lead in the first inning before Dixon went ahead 2-1 in the third on an RBI single from Bryce Feit and a sacrifice fly from Aiden Wiseman. Freeport tied it in the same inning before scoreless fourth and fifth innings.

Dixon sophomore Brady Lawrence came through in the sixth inning with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. That at-bat followed a bizarre previous plate appearance in which he was tagged out after ducking below a pitch. The ball hit his bat and stayed in play, resulting in some frustration.

Lawrence still was not deterred, adding another RBI in the eighth on an RBI single.

“For the sophomore to step up in a big game like this and just focus at the plate ... he’s started to take more of a leadership role, as well,” Burgess said. “His at-bats today were just phenomenal.”

“I calmed myself down,” Lawrence said after his strange out. “[Then] I just swung away and got back to my old self.”

Dixon had five singles and two walks in the six-run eighth.

Harrison scored a run and knocked in another from the leadoff spot in addition to his pitching performance.

“After that seventh inning, we knew we had to kind of pick it up there,” he said. “We got that pitcher [Arnold] out of the game, and we started to hit and everything started to fall and we got a lot of momentum from that.”

Arnold got 21 outs, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks, striking out two. Ryan Coon allowed four runs in relief before Russell Butitta recorded the final three outs for Freeport.

Dixon held on for the win after Quade Richards and Ari Selmani pitched the final four outs. Selmani did not allow a hit or run in recording the last two outs.

Lawrence said the team showed zero quit in holding on for the win.

“We’re a strong group. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and each other,” he said. “It’s going to take us far.”

Bryce Feit had two hits and two RBIs, and Selmani also had a pair of singles for Dixon.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Dukes, but they rallied with a postseason win and now have a shot at a regional title against Sycamore on Saturday.

“I had a lot of things going on with my family, and I lost my father, and we kind of went in a rut there,” Burgess said. “Don’t want to say it’s because of that ... but we had a lot of things going on internally, and we’ve overcome some adversity.”

With another chance to play a postseason game on its home diamond for the first time in a long time, Dixon feels like it’s playing with house money. Sycamore beat Dixon 2-0 on May 16.

“They’re a good team,” Lawrence said of Sycamore. “We only lost 0-2, and I think we can get them.”

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Drake Lansman

Drake Lansman

Drake has been a sports reporter with Sauk Valley Media/Shaw Local since May of 2024. He is a Bettendorf native who graduated from Iowa State University. Drake previously covered sports in the Quad Cities area for nine years.