CENTERVILLE — Perhaps nobody was happier to get to a 10th inning 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, Gonnerman had to hand the ball over to relief pitcher J.D. McDanel with the score tied at 3-3 as No. 7 Chariton came to bat in the bottom of the 10th. After going 0-4 with three strikeouts against Gonnerman, Hockenson took full advantage of his shot against McDanel by delivering a game-winning single to left past Gonnerman at short to bring in Chariton relief pitcher Jordan Baughman with the winning run in a 4-3 thriller Monday at Pat Daugherty Field in Centerville.
Gonnerman could only throw his glove in desperation as the two-out grounder went by with Baughman standing on the third. The hit brought the Chargers out of the dugout for a massive dog pile on top of their freshman teammate to celebrate the end of a wild three-and-a-half hour game that featured everything from moments in which Chariton faced the final strike of their season to a 15-minnute delay in extra innings due to a light bulb exploding in right field.
In the end, the remarkable season for the seventh-ranked team in 3A will continue as the South Central Conference champion Chargers of Chariton will take a 34-5 record to Legion Memorial Field in Ottumwa to battle for a spot in the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament. Chariton faces 18-23 Fort Madison, who stopped Fairfield’s 10-game winning streak in the 3A, District 7 final on Monday, in the Substate 4 title game Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Chariton already owns one win over a Southeast Conference team, having beat Keokuk in just six innings 10-0 on Friday in their postseason opener. Austin Peterson kept a fantastic summer going right in the postseason, going 3-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI while Alex Wright drove in three runs, scored twice and also pitched a five-hit shutout to improve to 6-0. Wright added two more hits at the plate against the Big Reds, who couldn’t put away Chariton in the seventh when Gonnerman walked four batters including Baughman with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game.
The loss ended Centerville's season at 22-17. More on this story can be found in Wednesday's edition of the Ottumwa Courier and later on ottumwa.com