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Extra effort

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By Sean Arnold

Two evenly-matched teams battled for nine innings in Fort Meade in the baseball regional semifinals March 9.

Chiefland lost a lead it maintained throughout the game in the bottom of the seventh on a squeeze bunt, but survived by the skin of its teeth to take things to extra innings.

In the end, it was the Miners who flinched first, as the Indians took advantage of a couple of costly errors in the ninth to prevail 5-3.

CMHS (12-11), which traveled three hours to play Fort Meade (15-14), advanced to the regional final to face Trenton on May 15.

Juniors Kelby Osteen and Wyatt Hammond boarded on walks to put two on with one out for Chiefland in the top of the ninth with the scored knotted at 2-2. After senior Josh Webber moved the pair over to second and third on a ground ball, sophomore newcomer Luke Reidy bounced a grounder up the middle, which was mishandled in front of second base, allowing Osteen’s run to score for a 3-2 lead.

Later in the frame, junior catcher Elijah Smith walked to load the bases for CMHS. Senior infielder Seth Thomas then launched a shallow pop fly near second base which ended in another costly Miner error, leading to a couple more Chiefland runs for a 5-2 advantage.

“The little things became big things, which obviously they do when you have two teams that are pretty even playing for nine innings,” CMHS coach Kyle Parnell said. “It was awesome seeing them compete for nine innings.

“It started with our pitching, and then some timely hitting and a lot of hustle, offensively.”

Fort Meade, which managed a couple base runners with one out in the bottom of the ninth, scored on a throwing error to cut the lead to 5-3, before Hammond, in relief for Osteen, and the defense shut the door.

Hammond entered in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded, one out, and Chiefland leading 2-1. After the squeeze bunt, Hammond fanned a Miner batter and Reidy assisted on another out at third base to force extra innings.

“I just thought, I’ve got to fill it (the strike zone) up, and if they hit it, let the defense get it,” Hammond said of the pressure situation.

Osteen allowed one hit and one earned run in 6.1 innings. Hammond struck out four batters, allowed two hits and didn’t surrender an earned run in 2.2 innings.

“Both guys went out and did a tremendous job against a good ball team,” Parnell said. “We’re in the bottom half of the seventh with our backs against the wall and (Hammond) comes in and gets the strikeout and we get out of that deal and extend the game.”

Smith threw out three base runners at second base from behind the dish.

“I told him he saved his biggest throws for tonight,” Parnell said.

The Indians jumped ahead 2-0 in the first on a couple of walks, a couple of hit-batters and an Osteen hit, forcing Fort Meade to switch pitchers in the opening frame.

Will Sumner was 2 for 3 with a double and a walk for the Indians. Osteen and Webber accounted the team’s only other pair of hits.

It was the first playoff appearance by a Chiefland boys’ team from any sport in two years. The Indians advanced to the state finals in 2016.

The Tigers (20-6) defeated Frostproof 11-1 in the region’s other semifinal game.