Pine Grove takes Game 3 in chaotic thriller

BIGGERSVILLE – The third and final game of the Class 1A North half championship featured a little bit of everything: a three-run home run to retake the lead that didn’t count, an ejection, a runner successfully stealing home, and a litany of errors. And that was just the first three innings.

After the dust had finally settled, Pine Grove held on for a 9-7 win over Biggersville on Monday to advance to the state championship series in Pearl next week for the first time in school history.

“I feel like for the first time in a while I can actually kind of breathe,” Pine Grove head coach Matt King said. “I feel relieved, I feel proud. I think overwhelmingly, probably the word is I’m just really proud.”

Pine Grove (27-10) took an early 2-0 lead, but Biggersville (20-3) immediately answered with a sacrifice fly before Tre Gunn stole home to tie the game heading into the second inning. And that’s when the game shifted from a high-scoring start to sheer lunacy.

With two runners on and two outs, Gehrig Shinall, Class 1A’s Mr. Baseball, smashed what should have been a three-run home run for Pine Grove to regain the lead. However, Pine Grove’s lead runner failed to step on home plate. That stood as the third out of the inning, and the score stayed at 2-2.

“Everyone wants to hit a home run in that spot,” Shinall said. “To have it all come down on top of you, somebody didn’t touch the plate, all of it come down on top of you, after that inning’s over, it deflated us. But we kept our head enough, we were man enough to go out there, regroup ourselves and go back in and win a ballgame.”

Between a wild night at the plate and pitching all seven innings on the mound, Shinall endured the brunt of Monday night’s rollercoaster ride. He only gave up four hits, but two of them came against Gunn. Gunn smacked two pitches that were no-doubt home runs for four RBIs.

“(He) came out and threw 100-plus (pitches), and I know he wasn’t flawless – gave up seven runs – but the dude just gutted it,” King said. “Just gutted it and kept making big pitches.”

Biggersville led 7-4 through five innings after Gunn’s second dinger of the night, but that’s when Pine Grove went to work. The Panthers batted around for five runs off four hits to take a 9-7 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Biggersville has seen plenty of postseason heroics this year between its football and boys basketball teams that won state titles, especially from Gunn. But that wouldn’t be of any solace for Biggersville’s stacked senior class, which has finally seen its time together come to an end.

“Just emotional right now,” Biggersville head coach Daniel Rowsey said. “Our seniors go out like that. Family members, my son and my nephew, both playing for me, it’s tough to go out that way. Been a heck of a season, just overall proud of the guys. They didn’t quit, and they fought till the end.”

Extra Bases

Big Inning: Pine Grove posted five runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-7 lead.

Big Stat: The two teams combined for four runs in the first inning without either team recording a hit.

Coach Speak: “Third North half trip, third time’s the charm. We finally got it done in North half. Third time in four years, and we finally got it done.” – King