MARION — Greg Hall’s night couldn’t have started any worse.
And it could not have ended any better.
The Linn-Mar senior was touched for four runs in the first inning of Friday night’s Class 4A substate opener against No. 6 seed Bettendorf, recording just one out before being lifted.
However, Hall and his Lion teammates kept battling. With the bases loaded in a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the seventh, Hall came through with a game-winning single to left, scoring pinch-runner Sam Wilson to give Linn-Mar a heart-stopping 6-5 victory.
“It doesn’t matter at this stage of the season, a win is a win, pretty or ugly,” said Linn-Mar Coach Kyle Rodenkirk. “I give our team credit, down four runs in the first inning, the chipped away and chipped away.”
The win pushes the top-seeded Lions (26-11) into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. substate final. Linn-Mar will host the winner of Monday’s semifinal between Iowa City High and Pleasant Valley for the right to advance to the state tournament.
Bettendorf retires at 10-22.
Hall didn’t let his rough start on the mound carry over to the rest of his night.
“It was a different start,” Hall said. “They came out hitting gap, gap, gap and they ended up putting four on me. I just didn’t think too much about it.”
Peyton Weber relieved Hall and pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Lions in the game.
“He did a heck of a job,” Rodenkirk said of Weber. “He really picked up Greg when we really needed it.”
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Linn-Mar scored single runs in the second and third innings and finally tied the game in the fourth on a two-out bloop single from catcher Tyler Oberbroeckling. The Lions took their first lead in the bottom of the sixth when Michael Weiss doubled with one out and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Eli Scott.
The Bulldogs tied the game on a Lion error in the top of the seventh. A Bulldog error was key in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Coy Sarsfield to reach, loading the bases for Hall, who came through with the winning hit.
“Every player lives for that moment,” Hall said. “You want to be the guy to walk it off and I enjoy getting a chance to hit in those moments.”
Adam Like had three hits for the Bulldogs.
Linn-Mar now has a chance to make its second trip to state in the last three seasons on Wednesday night.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play,” Rodenkirk said. “We just have to come out and play solid fundamental baseball no matter who we end up playing.”