Trailing 3-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh and the ninth hitter in the batting order sitting on a 0-2 count, the Tomah U19 American Legion baseball team had a roughly 99 percent probability of losing to Black River Falls.
Tomah didn’t give up on that last one percentage point.
Jacob Powell kept his longshot at-bat alive with a flare single, which was followed by three singles and a towering home run by Jairon Pierce. When the smoke cleared, Tomah had pulled an improbable 6-4 victory in the first round of the Class AA Regional tournament Friday at Black River Falls High School.
Tomah improved its record to 7-3 heading into its next contest that was scheduled for Saturday against New Richmond, which defeated River Falls 5-4 in eight innings.
Tomah had outhit Black River Falls 8-1 heading into the final inning but appeared headed for defeat when Black River Falls reliever Ethan Anderson easily retired the first two Tomah batters and rang up two strikes against Powell. However, Powell’s first two strikes were Anderson’s 29th and 30th pitches, and he was taken out in favor of reliever Tyler Thompson.
The strategy to preserve Anderson for the rest of tournament backfired. Powell kept the game going with a single, and that was followed by consecutive singles from Brett Larsen, Tyler Torkelson and Dakota Riedesel that tied the game at 3-3.
Pierce then stepped to the plate. After taking a first-pitch strike, Pierce looked at two pitches outside the strike zone. He launched Thompson’s fourth offering deep to leftfield, where it curled toward the foul pole but sailed over the fence in fair territory with several feet to spare.
Tomah still had to survive the Black River Falls seventh. Riedesel, Tomah’s starting pitcher, gave up just his second hit of the game to start the inning but got the next two outs before hitting his pitch limit.
Cody Peters took the mound in relief and initially struggled with his control. He walked his first batter and then faced Anderson, Black River Falls’ cleanup hitter, who represented the tying run. However, Peters got Anderson to loft a popup to second baseman Larsen to end the game.
Riedesel pitched an outstanding game for Tomah. He gave up an unearned run in the third before creating his own trouble in the fifth. He hit the inning’s first two batters, and both scored when Jordan Zillmer cracked a two-run single, the first Black River Falls hit of the game. The inning could have been worse, but Tomah executed a rundown play between third base and home for the inning’s second out, and an infield grounder ended the inning and kept the deficit at 3-1.
Tomah scored its first run in the sixth, when Larsen led off with a single, advanced to second on an error and scored on Pierce’s RBI single. Tomah had runners on second and third with one out, but Anderson rang up consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
The only thing more improbable than Tomah’s victory was that the game was played at all. Dark clouds and persistent lightning were visible in the north sky for all seven innings, but the threatening weather never produced more than a stray raindrop.
The winner of the double-elimination tournament advances to the state tournament in Mauston July 26-30.