BATAVIA – It wasn't a situation Kyle Niemiec hoped to have to be in when the top of the seventh started.
The Bulldogs allowed Geneva to tie the game with two runs, giving the Batavia baseball team one more at-bat.
After two intentional walks loaded the bases, Niemiec came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The senior outfielder ripped a 2-1 pitch over the right fielder's head to bring home the game-winning run in a 4-3 victory to clinch the Upstate Eight Conference River Division series May 4.
"I told four of the guys, I'm hitting this inning. Every hitter wants to be up in that situation," Niemiec said. "If you don't, there's something wrong with you. I was flabbergasted that I got the chance to hit. It's a hitter's dream to come up with the game on the line and the bases loaded. I didn't want to do too much and I was looking for one pitch in that spot and I got it."
Niemiec got the chance to hit after both Luke Beckmann and Tyler Kledzik were both put on base intentionally by Geneva pitcher Noah Davison. Coming into the bottom of the seventh inning, Davison had thrown 95 pitches, but Geneva coach Matt Hahn stuck with his senior right-hander, who pitched well for the most part of May 4's contest.
Batavia (12-7, 6-5 UEC River) was hoping not to have to bat in the seventh, but after a chopper off of the bat of Geneva's AJ Hostman was misplayed at second base with two outs, the Vikings (16-8, 9-5) brought home the game-tying run.
"It's baseball and errors happen. Sometimes they just happen at the worst time," Batavia coach Matt Holm said. "Today's game is more of what I expected yesterday's game to be like. Over the last few days, all three of those guys (Beckmann, Kledzik and Niemiec) have crushed the ball. I understand the situation, but I just told the guys, if I have to pick a guy to go win me a game, (Niemiec's) the guy."
It was much more of a bounce back, typical, Geneva-Batavia rivalry game, one that literally was not over until the last at-bat.
Hahn knew there wasn't necessarily a correct way to play the situation, with Batavia's 2-3-4 hitters up with a chance to win the game, but setting up the force and hoping to get Davison out of the jam was his primary goal.
"It's really pick your poison in that spot. (Batavia) is a really good team, much better than their record shows," Hahn said. "It happens. When you strategize and it works, you're a genius. If it doesn't work out, you're the goat, you know. Our strategy didn't work today, but we're 16-8. Our strategy has been working pretty well. Today it didn't work, but the kids continued to fight and played a great game after yesterday."
After an 18-3 rout of the Vikings on May 3, both teams expected the sort of game that this one presented. Geneva jumped ahead, 1-0, on an RBI single by Matt Simpson in the second inning, which was later matched by Batavia's Glenn Albanese in the Bulldogs' half of the fourth. Kledzik also picked up an RBI single for the Bulldogs in the fifth.
While Geneva rode Davison the entire way, Batavia used a three pitchers. Ethan Krumwiede started and Brett Norkus was the first reliever. Craig Rowland – the game's winning pitcher – encountered a jam in the seventh.
Though the final run that tied the game was unearned to Rowland, it did result in him picking up his first win of the season thanks to Niemiec's game-winner.
The final game of the series, as Batavia looks for the sweep, will take place May 5 at 4:30 p.m. at Geneva. Neither coach had decided on his starting pitcher as of the conclusion of May 4's contest.
"Today was typical of a Geneva-Batavia game and we expect no less tomorrow," Hahn said.