---- — By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
NEW BERLIN -- With dusk quickly settling in and the game deadlocked and in extra innings, the District 13 Junior Division contest between Selinsgrove and Danville was one out away from being suspended by darkness.
But Selinsgrove's All-Stars weren't about to let Mother Nature dictate how the game would end.
Cross Kantz drove a single through the hole between second and short to bring home Kyle Mertz and give Selinsgrove a 10-9, 8-inning victory over Danville at the New Berlin Legion Field on Monday.
Kantz's single put an end to Danville's comeback hopes after the Montour County All-Stars scored eight runs in the top of the seventh to help send the game into extra innings.
Now Selinsgrove is in the driver's seat, and the team awaits the winner out of the elimination bracket for its next game, which is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Danville falls into the elimination bracket and will play the winner of Friday's game between Juniata and Berwick on Sunday at 4 p.m.
"To be up 9-1 and squander the lead away, and then to have our last at-bat and not come through. What a game, what a game," said Selinsgrove manager Rodney Kantz. "This will go down as being just as good of a game if not better (than the 7-6 comeback win) over Juniata (on June 27).
"The win feels really good. We almost didn't have it there, but the boys came through," Kantz added. "We could've hung our heads and not compete (anymore after the seventh). It was tough. The game was all-out and we were drained. It was an awesome comeback win. I'm exhausted."
Kyle Mertz hit a one-out double to get Selinsgrove going in the eighth. Griffin Kirchner followed with an infield single and Jake Nylund drew a walk to load the bases before Cross Kantz completed the rally with his single.
"We had the bottom of our lineup up. Kyle got on base and ends up on third, Griffin got on base and then my son came through with a great big hit for us to win the ball game there," said manager Kantz. "It was a whole team effort from top to bottom."
Danville was held to a single run through the first six innings of play. In the fourth Hunter Marcheski hit an RBI single to plate Travis Webb, who had doubled in the previous at-bat, to temporarily give Danville a 1-0 lead.
Selinsgrove answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning by getting RBI singles from both Aaron Zechman and Jayden Geiswite.
Then in the fifth, Selinsgrove batted around and took what seemed to be a commanding 9-1 lead.
Kirchner and Zechman first hit RBI singles before Ricky Cope and Dawson Klinger drew bases-loaded walks. Mertz completed the six-run outburst by blooping a two-run single behind third base.
But Danville couldn't be contained the whole game, especially when Selinsgrove took out starting pitcher Noah Hendricks after he had reached his maximum pitch count early in the seventh.
Danville scored eight runs on just two hits, in addition to five walks and two hit-batsmen in the seventh off relief pitchers Mertz and Klinger. The two hits came from Marty Klena, and they were both RBI singles.
Although the game was tied, Selinsgrove stopped the bleeding and the squad kept any more blood from being shed when manager Kantz put reliever Geiswite in the game to pitch the eighth.
Geiswite struck out two batters and got a 1-2-3 inning.
"Bringing Jayden in to pitch was really amazing. He came in there and got those three big outs," said manager Kantz. "Noah pitched really great for us, six strong innings for us. And I got to give our catcher Jake Nylund credit for keeping Danville on the bases. He threw a runner out in the first inning and they didn't run after that. He was huge back there. He calls a great game."
Danville had five base runners who were thrown out in the game either trying to steal a base, take an extra base on a hit, or were tagged out while they were caught sleeping on the base paths.
Kirchner also keyed the defensive efforts by Selinsgrove. He made three diving catches from his center field position.
"We battled back, right down to the last out. So, I'm proud of them," said Danville manager Bob Riley. "We made some mistakes and we gave Selinsgrove some runs early, but that's baseball.
"I think we played tough. I thought we hit well and we were patient at the plate. The game could've gone either way."