CENTERVILLE – Perhaps nobody was happier to see the 10th inning arrive than T.J. Hockenson.
Because that meant Kolton Gonnerman’s night on the mound was officially over.
Having thrown the maximum-allowed nine innings in his Class 3A, District 7 championship start for the Centerville Big Reds, both Gonnerman and head coach Bill Huisman had no choice heading into the bottom of the 10th but to hand the ball over to relief pitcher J.D. McDanel. A one-out walk, two outs and two wild pitches later, Hockenson came to home plate for the fifth time on Monday night.
After going 0-4 with three strikeouts against Gonnerman, Hockenson took full advantage of his first shot against McDanel. The Charger freshman grounded a ball into left field, ironically past Gonnerman who had moved over to shortstop, to bring in Jordan Baughman with the winning run that brought an end to unreal night at Pat Daugherty Field as the seventh-ranked Chargers saved their season and saved their state tournament hopes with a 4-3, 10-inning win over their South Central rivals.
“I struck out three times out of five, but I found a way to get that one hit,” Hockenson said. “Obviously my teammates were the ones that kept me in it. Kolton Gonnerman’s a heck of pitcher, but our coaches keep us in the game the whole time. They keep us in a routine. They keep us prepared for any moment.”
Gonnerman’s desperation not to let his season end on Monday was evident all night as the junior refused to come off the mound despite an extremely high pitch count. The Big Red ace threw 167 pitches in nine innings of work, including 105 strikes, but could do nothing about the state-mandated rules except move over to a new defensive position after being the 15th Centerville base runner stranded in the top of the 10th after singling and stealing second base.