Grand Island (N.Y.) High managed to pull off an improbable comeback during the state regional playoffs on Tuesday evening, coming from three runs down with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat Honeoye Falls-Lima (N.Y.) High, 7-6.
Normally the game should have centered around Grand Island's Dylan Kelly, who singled home the winning run to help his team advance. But it was actually pinch-runner Matt Lenz who stole the show.
As the Buffalo News reported, just hours before his team's game, Lenz's mind was elsewhere, after he spent the morning at a funeral service remembering his father, Ken Lenz, who lost his battle to cancer on June 1, one day after Grand Island had won the Section VI Class A-1 title game.
Needless to say, nobody expected Lenz to show up or play in the game. But Lenz, with the help of his teammates, who were all present at the funeral service, pressed on, taking his place on the bench. He was ready and willing to go in if his name was called.
But given the magnitude of the playoff game, Grand Island coach Dean Santorio figured it would be hard to find a spot to bring Lenz in off the bench. However, an opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the 10th inning with Grand Island down to its last out and three runs behind Honeoye Falls-Lima.
Figuring the game was all but over, Santorio allowed Lenz to come on and pinch run for C.J. Fadel, who'd just advanced to third base on a fly ball.
"I'm coaching the game to win as it unfolds, but I have to be honest, I wasn't thinking we're coming back and winning," Santorio told the Buffalo News. "We'll get him in the game, and we've had a great season. If we score him, even better. If he scores our last run of the season, wow, that would be awesome."
What Santorio didn't expect was that Lenz would play a role in Grand Island's historic win, after Jon Voyzey singled up the middle, allowing Lenz to sprint home and score, cutting the lead to 6-4 for Honeoye Falls-Lima.
After AJ Jasek singled to make it a 6-5 game, Kelly came to the plate and hammered a ball to center, bringing home two runs to win the game, 7-6. Even though Lenz didn't score the winning run, his teammates all agreed after the game that things changed when he took the field to pinch run.
"The whole game changed when Matt Lenz stepped on third base," senior Dylan Kelly told the Buffalo News. "We definitely didn't see it coming."
You want to talk about a win that gives you goosebumps; this is the kind of storyline they make movies out of. And for Lenz to be a part of it on the day of his father's funeral has to make Grand Island's win one of the best of the baseball season.