08/02/2023 10:53 PM -
GRIFFITH, Ind. – The Generals forced the final playoff domino to fall tonight as they won an entertaining, 11-inning, walk-off 5-4 game over the Southland Vikings. With the Oilmen victory in Whiting and the Viking loss, The Oilmen claim the two-seed and will host Southland this weekend in the opening round of the Northern League playoffs.
A valiant pitcher's duel blossomed into an offensive shootout once the game extended into extras. The Generals were one out away from sealing what would have been their second shutout win of the season, but a wild pitch from Jimmy Fairley allowed Jack Fitzharris to score the tying run. The Generals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and the game went to extras, tied 1-1.
Just like Sunday’s game, managers Sullivan Stickann and Connor Spear agreed to use the “California tie-breaker rule” in extra innings, putting a runner on second to start each frame. Jimmy Fairley stayed on the mound for the Generals until the middle of the eleventh inning. In the tenth, Fairley gave up two runs on a Jorgie Vasquez double. The Generals needed a pair of scores to stay alive.
Vasquez came in to pitch in the tenth, trying to close out a win after his big hit. Mark Ross and Max Waszkiewicz had other ideas, as they hit respective RBI singles to tie the game 3-3. The best was yet to come.
Jimmy Fairley only recorded one out in the tenth before he yielded way to Caleb Deel, who beat the Vikings on Sunday. The unearned Fairley run scored on a fielding error with two outs, putting the Generals in another score-or-go-home situation.
The Generals didn’t record an out in their half of the eleventh. Nic Altobelli started the inning on second as Billy Jones led it off. Jones was hit by a pitch, putting two runners on for Aaron Orzech. He put the ball in play, but the Vikings didn’t record an out as Jack Fitzharris’ foot never made contact with second base before an offline throw to first, loading the bases for Max Hensler.
Hensler had a rough ball game before his final at-bat. He was 0-5 with a strikeout and admitted that he was “prepared to go home earlier on. I was struggling all day, and I said, ‘Let’s catch a barrel.’” Hensler then proceeded to hit the first pitch he saw into right field to score Nic Altobelli. Billy Jones flew around the corner at third in hopes of ending the game. The throw to the plate was close, but Jones slid in just in time to beat the tag by Matt Merk, and the Generals mobbed Hensler at first to wrap an instant classic at Brian Jennings Field.
“I walked it off. That was pretty sick,” remarked Hensler on his shining moment. “Turned the day around for me.”
Generals manager Connor Spear jokingly remarked that he was “glad the game wasn’t soccer,” looking back on all the ties. “We should have won that game multiple times. There were a lot of things we didn’t do well, but we finally got the hit that we needed. Pitchers did a good job. We didn’t really have to manage the pen. Roll Gennies.”
Ryan Polly had another impressive start, as he threw six scoreless innings, only allowing four hits and three walks while striking out three. Jimmy Fairley pitched 4.1 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on one hit while striking out three of his own. Caleb Deel got his second consecutive win against the Vikings, getting the final two outs defensively.
The Generals conclude their season tomorrow against the Indiana Panthers at 7:10 p.m.