By SHANNON DOVE
Two outs, two runners on base, down by two runs in the bottom of the last inning.
Every baseball player dreams of walking to the plate in this situation and knocking a home run out of the park, winning the game and perhaps a championship for their team.
Chris Hampton got to live it Saturday.
The Fostoria High School junior stepped up to the plate at Grant Jackson Field in the bottom of the seventh and sent the first pitch he saw over the left field fence to give the Redmen a 4-3 victory over Upper Sandusky in a Division II sectional semifinal.
“I was looking to hit it as hard as I could,” Hampton said.
Fostoria (14-9) advances to a sectional championship game at Wapakoneta Thursday at 5 p.m.
“Unbelievable. I don’t know what else to say other than unbelievable,” FHS coach Dustin Smith said.
“We kept our heads in the game, battled and battled and battled, had lots of opportunities to score runs and just for whatever reason couldn’t get it done until the bottom of the seventh.”
Upper Sandusky coach Keith Miller was philosophical afterward.
“One more out. One more out and we’re out of here with a win. It’s part of baseball,” he said.
Hampton’s bomb was even more dramatic after the Rams (13-10) broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the top of the seventh.
With a runner on second and two outs, Smith decided to issue an intentional walk to Cody Gabriel, who had given the Rams a 1-0 lead in the third with a solo home run. However, that brought clean-up hitter Carson Mittermaier to the plate and he belted a triple to the gap in right-center field.
“Either way, you pick your poison,” Smith said. “You either pitch to (Gabriel) and leave a base open at first or … I was looking for forces at any base. (Mittermaier) hit it into the gap and that’s just the way the game goes.”
Twice earlier, it looked as if the Rams may take command. Upper Sandusky put its first two hitters of the second inning on base on infield errors, but pitcher Trey Yates got out of the jam when Dermot Garza hit into a fielder’s choice, Tylor Pritchard flied out to center field and Cameron Binau hit a pop fly that first baseman Hunter Abell caught in foul territory.
Upper Sandusky threatened again in the sixth inning when Mittermaier hit a leadoff double and moved to third on Alex Kenner’s single. After Kenner stole second, Andre Myers grounded out to shortstop, Garza grounded out to the pitcher and Pritchard hit a pop fly to shortstop Kaleb Bemis.
“One of our most consistent pitchers on the team and he’s a freshman,” Smith said of Yates. “Throws strikes, keeps the ball down, stays composed — I don’t really see him get riled, worried, out of whack or anything. He just does his thing, throws strikes, and he’s going to be good. He does a real nice job for us.”
Upper Sandusky stranded nine runners on base, including six in scoring position.
“We had other chances throughout the game, too, a lot of guys in scoring position, and couldn’t get them in when we needed to,” Miller said. “We still worked hard enough at the end that we got that two-run lead, and unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to hold up.”
Yates earned the pitching win after allowing three earned runs, six hits, four walks and striking out three in a complete game.
Rams starter Sam Plott had a solid outing, giving up just one earned run on five hits and one walk while fanning nine in six innings.
Reliever Gabriel was charged with the loss after surrendering three earned runs on three hits and striking out one in two-thirds of an inning.
Hampton also singled in the third inning and knocked in all four of Fostoria’s runs. Lance Smith added a pair of singles for the Redmen, while Alex Jackson doubled and Kaleb Bemis, Noah Hammer and Kobey Bemis each singled.
Upper Sandusky 001 000 2 — 3 6 0
Fostoria 001 000 3 — 4 8 2
WP — Yates. LP — Gabriel. top hitters: (US) Gabriel HR; Mittermaier 2-2B, 2 RBI. (Fos) Smith 2-1B; Hampton HR, 1B, 4 RBI; Jackson 2B.
records: Upper Sandusky 13-10; Fostoria 14-9.