It was an unusual and painful end to the baseball season for the Lakeland Lakers last Friday night in South Whitley.
A balk called on Laker hurler Dylan Pranger with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning brought home pinch-runner Zach Baughman from third base and gave host Whitko a 4-3 victory in the first round of the 3A baseball sectional.
Lakeland took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, only to have the Wildcats knot the count at 3-all on a two-run homer by Ethan Nicodemus. After two scoreless innings, Tanner Gaff led off the Whitko ninth with a double. Baughman took over for Gaff on the bases and soon advanced to third on a passed ball, setting up for the dramatic finish.
Dalton Schmidt and Derrick Dunn both had two hits for Lakeland, which finished 9-19. William Kelly started on the mound for the Lakers, striking out five and walking three in 6.1 innings. Pranger tossed the final 2.1 frames.
Whitko fell to NorthWood, 11-6 in Saturday’s semifinals. The Panthers will play Fairfield, an 8-5 victor over Wawasee Saturday, in the sectional finale Monday night at 5:30 p.m.