The reliable suddenly become uncertain.
Plays that have become routine for the Evergreen Vikings suddenly became adventurous, and strike throwers suddenly couldn’t find the plate.
And because of that, what seemed to be a sectional title for the Evergreen baseball team — just that quick — turned into a gut-wrenching, season-ending, extra inning loss to Paulding in a Division III sectional final Friday, 8-5.
Evergreen had advanced to the final by means of Landen Vance’s two-hit, 11 strikeout performance against Van Buren Wednesday, leading his team to a 5-0 win.
“He was around the zone all day,” Viking coach Mark Cymbolin said. “We know when he goes out there that he is usually in or around the zone, minimal walks all year long, he keeps our defense involved and had another good outing.”
The Vikings got the only run they really needed in the bottom third.
Austin Marvin walked, then the fleet outfielder stole second and third, and later scored on a fielder’s choice grounder.
“Marv is a guy who started the year getting DHed for,” Cymbolin explained. “However he put in a lot of work at practice and got some opportunities he made good with and now he’s in the lineup every day. He can bunt, he can steal and he puts pressure on you because of his speed.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Evergreen added two more on a Brock Hudik single, an error, then Ashton Sayers’ long double off the left-center field fence.
Marvin was in the middle of a pair of insurance runs in the sixth.
A walk and Payton Boucher’s single put Vikings on first and second when Marvin laid down a bunt that was thrown away for an error to bring home a fourth run.
Hudik added the last tally with a sacrifice fly.
That kind of activity of the sacks helped get the Vikings a 5-2 lead in the sectional final.
Alex Peete and Boucher singled with one down in the second, and when Peete swiped third, the throw from Hunter Kauser went awry allowing the Vikings to take a second inning lead.
However, the first chink in the armor came in the third when after a walk and a sacrifice, a throwing error on an inning-ending grounder allowed the tying run to score.
Then in the fifth, the Panthers took the lead because of more Viking mistakes in the field.
RJ Shunck had blown away the Panthers in the first four innings but in fifth the Panthers went to small ball.
A bunt single from Ashton Adams, a sacrifice, then another bunt came from Deyton Price.
Shunck’s throw to first pulled Nick Smithmyer off the bag, then the ensuing throw to the plate which would’ve cut down Adams was wide, giving the Panthers 2-1 lead.
Evergreen came right back in the fifth when three walks around an out loaded the bases and Sayers delivered with a ‘bad hop’ single to right to give the Vikings a 3-2 lead.
A balk and Shunck’s bullet to left gave Evergreen two more runs for a 5-2 advantage.
A single and a walk starting the sixth ended the day for Shunck, but Smithmyer got Evergreen out of trouble without a run.
That wasn’t the case in the seventh.
Two straight walks started the inning, then four straight singles from Kauser, Ethan Foltz, Brent McGarvey and Peyton Beckman knotted the game.
Then in the eighth Paulding used a combination of three walks, a Scott Woods base hit to left, and another two Viking errors for three more runs to take the game over.
Evergreen, who does not have a senior in the program, finishes with an 18-10 record.