Northgate unable to finish against McIntosh
by Chris Goltermann
PEACHTREE CITY — In a baseball season full of highs and lows, Northgate may have felt every peak and valley on a whirlwind Monday at McIntosh that ended with the Vikings on the brink of elimination.
Despite more than a concerted effort, a 6-5 loss in 10 innings here on Monday didn't feel any more satisfying than an initial loss to McIntosh, which earlier this season used an 8-run seventh to break a tie against Northgate at home.
Monday's loss stung twice as much, considering the visitors took a 5-3 lead into the seventh, needing three outs to move into a second-place tie in the region.
Northgate (14-11, 11-5) now needs to sweep its final four region games starting Wednesday at home against Mt. Zion-Jonesboro to stay alive.
Despite trailing 3-0 after one inning off two miscues on Monday, Northgate had more than three times as many hits (10) as the Chiefs by the sixth, scoring four times in the fifth — including both the tying and go-ahead runs on Tyler Dahlberg's two-run homer.
Like the first meeting of the season between teams, however, McIntosh (16-4, 13-3) was strongest at the start and the finish.
Andrew Johnson's clutch two-run double forced extra innings in the bottom of the seventh before teammate Tyler Roberts came through with the final hit, a single to center in the 10th that scored Michael Dolak with the game-winner.
"I can't argue with the effort," said Northgate head coach Greg Hamilton. "The execution just wasn't there at the end. They had six hits in the last three innings and we had only one. We know what this means. If we hope to finish fourth, we've got to win them all. We can't lose any of them."
Vikings senior starter Robert Massenburg allowed just three hits through six innings, but was unable to stick around until the finish after walking the leadoff man in the seventh. He struck out six despite allowing three walks and a hit batsman, having missed the teams' first meeting of the season. Reliever Matt Farmakis, meanwhile, couldn't hold back a resurging Chiefs lineup over their final four at bats despite getting help in the field to extend the game.
In the end, the Vikings baseball state playoff hopes went from firm, back to the brink of elimination, while now just a game ahead of Union Grove and Ola with four region contests remaining. The schedule is in Northgate's favor, with three of the final four opponents well below .500 for the season.
But it brought little solace immediately after Monday's loss.
"There's no guaranteed wins," Hamilton said. "One year we had to beat Creekside at home to make the playoffs and they came in and their guy threw a no-hitter against us."
Unable to close out a win in the top of the seventh against the Chiefs, Northgate battled just to keep the game alive, managing one hit in their final four at-bats despite spraying it to both sides of the outfield to chase McIntosh starting pitcher Tre Hudak.
Hudak left during a wild fifth-inning where the Vikings caught a break when a potential double-play throw caromed off the hand of runner Buddy Green, allowing two Northgate runs to score despite a vehement protest from Chiefs head coach Brad Campbell.
Two batters later, Dahlberg made an 0-1 pitch disappear into the cypress trees in right-center to put the Vikings ahead 4-3.
It stayed that way until the seventh when Armand Upshaw smashed a double off the left-field fence and scored on Jordan Schmits' two-out single after McIntosh intentionally walked Chase Allen to set up a potential force at third.
Schmits' clutch hit was the only run surrendered by Chiefs reliever Charlie Goedtk, who stood his ground in the final 5 1/3 innings. Goedtk got out of a two-out jam with runners on the corners in the top of the ninth and then stranded Spencer Sheheane on second in the 10th after allowing a leadoff walk.
Northgate was 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position over its final three at bats.
Farmakis equally did his best to salvage the rest of the seventh by retiring three straight batters with the bases loaded, then got defensive help in the eighth and ninth to give the Vikings another trip to the plate.
Center-fielder James Poropatic threw out the potential winning run at the plate to close the eighth on a strike to catcher Jonathan Hamilton. The ninth found Farmakis battling his way out of another jam with McIntosh runners on second and third.
But the game finally unraveled in the 10th. Dolak's leadoff single was followed by a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt. Campbell then held up his lead runner despite an opposite field hit to right by Brian White.
After moving up to put Chiefs on second and third, Roberts punched his first pitch into center, allowing Dolak to score easily for a walkoff win.