DIXON – It was appropriate Jared Frey's seeing-eye single was the difference in Dixon's 10-9 victory over Freeport on Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Field.
By the time the ball trickled into left field, players, coaches and fans could barely see the conclusion of a game that was unique, to say the least.
Each team scored seven runs in a first inning that lasted more than an hour; a Freeport player knocked himself cold while chasing a foul ball; and the game went just just six innings because of darkness. Had Frey made an out, the game would have went into the books as a tie, as the umpires and coaches decided after the fifth only one more inning would be played.
"The guys just kept fighting, that's all," Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. "To win 10-9, in the cold, in the dark, it's just a great win."
"This win is pretty much key for us," senior John Thomas said, "because it's going to start something, I feel, and we're not going to stop."
Dixon (2-4) started its winning rally with a walk to Cal Jarrett, and he promptly stole second base. Nate Grocke flew out to center and Jacob Tavitas struck out, setting the stage for Frey.
In two previous at-bats, Frey struck out. This time, he made contact with the first pitch he saw from Freeport's Derek Kortemeier and hit a slow roller that found its way into left field, just out of the reach of Pretzels third baseman Matt Krusey and shortstop Tyler Thompson.
By the time left fielder Adam Smith fielded the ball and fired it toward home plate, Jarrett was well on his way home, and he scored easily.
"It felt amazing," Frey said. "I wasn't hitting the whole game, and then to come through and get the winning hit for my team, it's just awesome. I love all these guys, and I love winning with them. It's the best feeling in the world."
Frey entered the game 2-for-9, with six strikeouts. He struck out his first time at bat against Freeport, then Gallucci sent Owen Van Horn up to bat in Frey's spot the second time through the order. The third time, Frey got another chance – and struck out again. He didn't necessarily want another chance with the game on the line, until Gallucci intervened.
"I wanted to get his confidence back up," Gallucci said, "because when he was in the dugout talking to me, he said, 'I can't hit. I'm having real trouble hitting.' I said, 'You're going to hit. You're going to be just fine. You've got to get back in there.' That's why I put him back in there."
Freeport (0-1) took advantage of two Dixon errors and three walks from Dixon starter Grocke to score seven runs in the top of the first inning. The Pretzels also had four hits, the key one being a two-run single from their No. 9 hitter, Connor Bendick.
The complexion of the game turned in Dixon's half of the first. Leadoff batter Dan Pultorak sent a high foul ball toward the Freeport dugout, and catcher Jalen Hughes took off in hot pursuit. He flipped off his mask and raced toward the dugout, then smashed his body, face-first, into the pole that anchors the dugout fence.
"He's a kid that goes hard all the time, and he was going 110 percent," Freeport coach Roger Fegan said. "He dove, thought he had a chance, and didn't realize he was that close, and he hit the post. It was probably one of the scariest things I've ever had happen as a coach. I honestly thought that was the last time I'd ever see Jalen play baseball."
According to Fegan, he was knocked out for 15-to-30 seconds, then had trouble breathing after that. Paramedics were immediately called, and after about a half hour, Hughes was taken to KSB Hospital. The initial diagnosis was a concussion.
"He's very, very fortunate, very blessed," Fegan said. "I'm going home and praying for a speedy recovery."
The Pretzels, who congregated on one knee around Hughes throughout the situation, had trouble once the game resumed. Starting pitcher Brady Frank walked three batters, hit one and allowed four hits in the first inning, when Dixon matched Freeport's seven-run outburst.
Thomas had a two-run double to highlight the Dukes' first inning, and his two-run single in the third inning gave Dixon a 9-8 lead.
Pultorak (2-1) got the win with two hitless innings of relief. He struck out three batters. Van Horn was also effective, allowing two runs and two hits in three innings.
Star of the game: Dan Pultorak, Dixon, 1-for-1, 2 RBI, 3 walks, 2 R; 2 IP, 3 SO
Key performers: John Thomas, Dixon, 2-for-3, 2B, 4 RBI; Derek Kortemeier, Freeport, 2-for-3, 3 RBI
Up next: Dixon at Princeton, 4:30 Friday