Things were looking pretty bleak.
The Helias Crusaders headed to the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday trailing the Marshfield Bluejays 6-2 in a Class 4 sectional at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.
Nine batters later, Helias sophomore Alex Loethen found himself in the middle of a wild Crusader celebration down the first-base line.
"I was getting beat up out there," Loethen said with a smile after he drove in the game-winner as the Crusaders scored five times in the seventh to rally for a 7-6 victory against the Bluejays. "But it's all good."
With the game tied at 6 and the Marshfield infield playing in with one out, Loethen hit a grounder to the second baseman. Pinch-runner Jason Haselhorst beat the throw home to give the Crusaders the improbable victory.
"When Alex keeps it simple, he can put the ball in play and put in it play hard," Helias coach Chris Wyrick said. "That's a high-pressure situation to be in, especially for a sophomore and with two strikes on him.
"To get that done is a testament to his toughness."
Helias (22-4) will play today at Monett (19-6) in the quarterinals. Game time is 5 p.m.
"I hope this one will let us relax and be ready to go from the first pitch," Wyrick said. "I think it will be a great atmosphere, I'm sure they're excited to be in the game, their fans are excited to be in the game."
Griffin Buschjost, Helias' No. 9 hitter in the order, led off the seventh with a single.
"Griffin is doing his job by getting on base," Wyrick said. "A hit, a walk, an error, I don't care. Just get on base and Griffin is doing it."
Zach Woehr, who had doubled twice earlier in the game, followed with a walk to put runners at first and second.
That was the last batter for Marshfield starter Truett Gardner, who had allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out four in the first six innings.
"He could command his fastball and his breaking ball," Wyrick said. "At this level, that makes you successful."
Zach Paschal then singled off Marshfield reliever Austin Dobrick to load the bases for Trevor Austin, who hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Buschjost to make it 6-3.
"If we don't score there, it makes the inning a lot more difficult," Wyrick said.
Jacob Weaver ripped a hard grounder up the middle for a single to score Woehr. Zach Davidson then grounded a ball up the middle the Marshfield shortstop bobbled near the bag at second before throwing low to first for an error. Paschal scored on the play as Weaver made his way to third to put runners on the corners.
"We had to have some things go our way and we also had to produce ourselves," Wyrick said. "Both things happened in that inning. That's how you get five runs like that."
Zach Wolken then walked to load the bases to bring Michael Snyder to the plate. Snyder and Wyrick had a little chat down the third-base line before his at-bat.
"He told me there was a chance we were going to squeeze," Snyder said.
With a 1-1 count, Wyrick gave Snyder the sign — the squeeze was on.
"I was like, 'You better get this down,'" Snyder said.
He did. In fact, Snyder got it down so well he beat the throw to first as Weaver scored to tie the game at 6.
"Michael's a very good bunter," Wyrick said. "I figured the pitcher didn't want to get behind in the count, he was going to try to throw and strike and Michael laid it down."
Loethen then came up to the plate.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play, trying to get us a run," Loethen said.
He accomplished both as the Crusaders advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.
In the first six innings, Helias did little to resemble the team that had won eight of its last nine games, including a pair of shutout victories in the District 9 Tournament last week.
"We were on a roll after districts, then we have a week off," Snyder said. "It's hard to keep that momentum going, but we were able to pull through at the end."
Marshfield scored three times in the top of the first inning. The Bluejays started the game with a pair of singles before scoring their first run on an infield error. A pair of sacrifice flies then made it 3-0.
The Bluejays added a run in the the fourth. A double and a single to start the inning had runners on second and third, After a strikeout, a high throw to first for an error allowed a run to score.
"That's not us," Wyrick said. "Not making throws, not catching the ball, that's not what we've done this season."
Helias got that run back in the bottom of the fourth. Woehr led off with a double and moved to third on a single by Paschal. Austin then hit a towering ball ball near the Helias dugout that was caught, but no one was covering the plate as Woehr alertly tagged up and scored.
"We battled, we just had to stay confident in ourselves," Snyder said.
Buschjost singled home courtesy runner Jason Binkley to make it 4-2 in the fourth. Marshfield scored a run in the fifth on a two-out double, then made it 6-2 in the sixth when it scored on a two-out wild pitch.
"They are scrappy and hard-nosed," Wyrick said.
James Schaefer pitched the seventh and got the win for the Crusaders, striking out two.
Kaleb Haley started for Helias, pitching two-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits. Only one of the runs was earned.
"That wasn't the Kaleb we were used to seeing," Wyrick said. "Usually when he misses, it's low or away. But today, he was missing up and they put good swings on him and hit it.
"If we get a chance to pitch Kaleb again, I know he'll be successful."
Dawson Meyer pitched the next four innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out six.
"Dawson did what Dawson always does," Wyrick said. "He kept us in the game."
Marshfield ends at 15-7.
Helias (22-4) will be looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time since finishing fourth in Class 4 in 2003, then the state's largest class. The Crusaders have made the Final Four 11 times in program history.