Chargers lose coach, then wild one
LINCOLN – They don't get much crazier than this.
Bryce Hunsley's double in the bottom of the 11th inning drove in the winning run as Lincoln outlasted Centennial 10-9 on Thursday in a Class 3A sectional semifinal.
Hunsley's hit capped a bizarre day of baseball. The weirdness began even before the first pitch.
Centennial (19-14-1) played without coach Kyle Herges, suspended by the IHSA for one game after the Chargers had a former player work out with the team during last Friday's practice.
The Chargers also were without their best hitter, leadoff man Don McDuffee, owner of a .505 average. McDuffee is suspected to be battling what is either E. Coli or salmonella, Centennial assistant coach Andrew Hammond said.
Before the game, Centennial players posted a large Xeroxed copy of McDuffee's picture – and a similar shot of Herges from his high school days – inside their dugout. Little did they know what was ahead.
"We had a lot of emotion from the get-go," Hammond said.
Hunsley's deep fly ball into the early-evening shadows ended a wacky affair that lasted 3 hours, 45 minutes. And it might take that long to explain everything that happened to Herges, who wasn't permitted in the ballpark.
For example: Centennial led 7-3 in the sixth before Lincoln (11-15) scored six times – on one hit.
Undaunted, the Chargers scored twice in the top of the seventh to tie it, then survived a scare in the bottom of the inning when Lincoln had a runner at third with no outs.
Lincoln had collected four hits until the 11th. Justin Johnson, the third Centennial pitcher, threw 41/3 hitless innings until the finale.
"He did a stellar job," Hammond said. "He's been doing that all year."
Tim Weaver had two hits and two RBI for the Chargers. Eric VonQualen also drove in a pair, including the tying run in the seventh.
Lincoln took advantage of four hit batsmen, three Centennial errors and five walks.