HUNTINGTON – It was an encouraging, solitary voice that arose from near the third-base bleachers, where the fans for Huntington North congregated.
“There’s a lot of baseball left,” came the voice, certainly close enough to be heard by the home-team Vikings inside the dugout only a few feet away.
And the voice was spot on. By the time Homestead had taken a five-run lead in the top of the third inning, much of the afternoon and 15 outs still remained for the Huntington North offense that had struck out four times in the first two innings.
Whether buoyed by the fan or their own resolve, the Vikings not only got three runs back in the bottom of the third, but they carried the assault through the sixth inning and finished with an 11-9 victory over Homestead in an eyeball-to-eyeball showdown between a pair of undefeated and highly ranked Class 4A teams. Huntington North, No. 3, stretched its winning streak to 11, and No. 4 Homestead fell for the first time in 11 games.
Two runs in the first and three in the third staked Homestead pitcher Jake Weber to a 5-0 lead, but four hits, including a first-ball triple from leadoff man Cody Frazier, enabled the Vikings to get three runs back.
One more run scored in the fourth inning, but Huntington North jumped on top with a five-run fifth when it parlayed three walks and three hits into 9-5 lead.
“The guys didn’t panic,” said Frazier, who had three hits and three RBI. “We said one hit at a time. You can’t hit a five-run home run. Every hitter had to do their job, and we did it.”
And just to make sure, Huntington tacked on two more runs in the sixth – runs that turned out to be vital, since Homestead mounted a comeback of its own with four runs in the seventh.
“The bottom line is I felt both teams brought what they had,” Huntington North coach Russ Degitz said. “Both teams at certain points could’ve packed it in and been done. We were down 5-0. They’re down 11-6. Both teams responded, and it ended up being a situation where the tying run was in scoring position.”
Homestead chipped away in the seventh, playing station-to-station baseball on singles and coaxing bases-loaded walks. But with the bases crowded, the Spartans couldn’t push two more runs across.
“Although we weren’t able to come back, the guys didn’t give up and kept plugging away,” Homestead coach Steve Sotir said. “That’s a positive we can take from this.”
Degitz, whose team has beaten four of the top programs in the area over the past week and a half, also sees a positive.
“To be quite honest, I’m glad this one’s over,” he said. “There are a lot of people around Huntington pretty excited about things, and I’m glad for that and wouldn’t have it any other way, but that’s about all I heard at school (Thursday). I’m ready to refocus on improvement rather than a single game.”