Genoa-Central used the long ball to hammer out a 5-4 victory over Manila in the first round of the 3A State Baseball Tournament Monday afternoon at Bergman.
The Dragons blasted three home runs in the game, including two by Justin Mosbey. Mosbey belted a two-run shot in the top of the first inning to give the Dragons a 2-0 lead.
Manila bounced back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second to grab a 3-2 edge. Zach Birmingham led off the inning with a base hit. Jeremy Goff reached base following a Dragon error, putting runners at first and second with no outs. Blake Wheeler scored Birmingham with an RBI bunt single to cut the Genoa-Central lead to 2-1.
The Lions tied the game 2-2 on Blake Miller's RBI groundout and took a one run lead when Dillon Burrow laid down a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt.
The Dragons regained the lead, 4-3 in the top of the third when Kenny Spencer and Mosbey belted back to back homers. Genoa-Central scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the fifth inning after a Lion error.
Jared Hembrey led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a ringing double and the Lions trimmed the deficit to 5-4 on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Tracey Reinhart.
Manila loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, but came up short when Zach Birmingham flew out deep to right field for the game's final out.
"This was a real heartbreaker," said Lion coach Steve Milligan. "This is the third straight year we have lost a one-run game in the first round of the state tournament. We had our opportunities, but just came up short. The back to back home runs after we took the lead really hurt, and then we gave up an unearned run in the fifth inning, which proved to be the difference."
"But I couldn't be prouder of a team than I am of this one," continued Milligan. "We lost six starters from last year's squad and came away with conference and district championships. Our four seniors, Zach Birmingham, Tray Malone, Blake Wheeler and Jared Hembrey, were great leaders for us this season. They are probably the most successful group of kids to ever play baseball for Manila. We had a great year and I think the future is bright."
Manila out-hit the Dragons 8-5 with Birmingham and Malone leading the way with two hits apiece. Wheeler went 1-3 with a run scored and an RBI while Burrow and Reinhart also went 1-3 at the plate with an RBI apiece. Hembrey finished with a double and a run scored. Malone was the tough luck loser on the mound, going the distance, giving up only five hits and four earned runs. The senior right-hander struck out eight batters while walking only two.
The Lions finish the season with a 16-8 record.