Herald-Whig

Pirates walk off thanks to Rickey's first career home run

Hannibal senior outfielder Lawson Rickey
By THE HERALD-WHIG STAFF
Posted: May. 15, 2019 1:20 am Updated: May. 16, 2019 1:28 am

WINFIELD, Mo. -- Kevin Rickey was standing down the left-field line with a handful of other Hannibal baseball fans when his son, Lawson, dug in to the batter's box leading off the bottom of the 13th inning Tuesday.

It turned out to be the perfect spot to retrieve a momento the Rickeys will treasure for a lifetime.

Facing a 2-1 count in a tie game in the Class 4 District 7 semifinals, Lawson Rickey jacked a home run to left field as the second-seeded Pirates walked off with a 4-3 victory over sixth-seeded Mexico.

It was the first home run Rickey hit in his high school career.

"I've hit some in practice, but never in a game," Rickey said. "It was exciting."

He walked away with the ball as well.

"I think the first thing my dad did was go get it," Rickey said. "It's pretty cool."

It was monumental for a team that showed an incredible amount of resolve to stay alive. The Pirates scored the game-tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, stranded five runners over the next five innings and celebrated the home run that extends their season.

Hannibal (8-14) will face top-seeded St. Dominic (19-8) at 4 p.m. Friday in the district championship.

"I think this is going to give us a lot of momentum," Rickey said. "The last few games, it's come together offensively and we've found ourselves hitting the ball better. I think our confidence is high."

The way the Pirates never panicked showed that.

Trailing 3-2 going to the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates were able to start a one-out rally as Charlie Hirner and Drake Dudley drew back-to-back walks. After Will Whitaker struck out, Gabe Worthington singled to left, allowing pinch-runner Keaton Scott to score from second to force extra innings.

"The biggest thing is we stayed the course," Hannibal coach Ian Hatton said. "We did a great job as a unit of staying checked in. We knew something would break our way if we stayed in the game mentally. The guys did a great job of not losing their focus."

They never thought they'd lose either.

"The biggest message from us as a coaching staff was is this game was never in doubt," Hatton said. "No matter what happened, things were never in doubt and we were going to continue to plug away."

That message was needed after the Pirates loaded the bases in the eighth inning with no outs but failed to score. A one-out walk in the ninth inning was squandered, and a leadoff single in the 12th inning led to another runner left on base.

"We just kept fighting," Rickey said. "We knew we could come up with a win. We knew we had it in us."

After working around a two-out double in top of the 13th, Rickey led off the bottom of the inning, going to a 2-1 count against the Bulldogs' Cole Whalen, who pitched against the Pirates during the regular season.

"I knew he had a pretty good curveball," Rickey said. "I knew he wasn't afraid to throw it behind in the count. So I was kind of thinking he might come with the curve. But I knew he wouldn't want to walk me, so I was looking fastball and got one."

He didn't miss it.

"It was a no-doubter," Hatton said. "Really, there was no doubt about it."

Rickey knew that the moment he connected.

"Everybody was pumped," Rickey said. "Everyone got excited."

Class 4 District 7

Hannibal 4, Mexico 3

Mexico 002 000 100 000 0--3 12 3

Hannibal 000 002 100 000 1--4 5 2

Dukes, Whalen and Haefling; Baxter, Whitaker, VanWinkle and Kirby. WP--VanWinkle. LP--Whalen. 2B–Mexico 4 (Prince 2, Whalen, Rowe). HR--Hannibal 1 (Rickey).