One out away from a trip to the Class 3A state baseball tournament, the Mascoutah Indians ran right into a wall.
That wall was the right-field fence at GCS Ballpark, which couldn't hold a dramatic three-run homer by Cincinnati Reds draft pick Mitch Trees.
Trees' three-run homer with two outs in the top of the seventh inning lifted Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin to a come-from-behind 5-2 win over Mascoutah at the Class 3A Sauget Super-Sectional, sending his team to state.
"It's awesome. This is what you live for, right here -- these kinds of games," said Trees, who was drafted by the Reds in the 11th round two days earlier. "It's unbelievable."
Trees described the at-bat, which came after Conor White had tied the game 2-2 with an RBI single to center.
"I was just kind of looking to shoot something away," Trees said. "He gave me a high away fastball and I went with it."
Did he think he got enough of it?
"Not really," he said. "I thought I got under it and it kind of just kept carrying."
It carried the hopes and dreams of the Indians (32-7) right along with it.
Mascoutah still had a chance down three in the bottom of the seventh, but Griffin reliever Peter Young closed out the win to send the Cyclones (37-3) to the state tournament in Joliet.
Mascoutah had just taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth on a squeeze bunt by Mike Biekert. The Indians had senior ace and previously unbeaten Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Ryan Netemeyer (9-1) on the mound and he had allowed only our hits all day.
"It felt like we were on top of the world there, but reality really hit us very hard," Netemeyer said. "We've worked so hard to this point, it just stinks that that's the way it ended."
In the top of the seventh, Griffin's Cal Elvers reached on a leadoff single and Sean Mason also singled. White tied the game with an RBI single to center that fell just in front of the diving Biekert in center.
After White's single tied it, Trees came up already 2-for-3 in the game. His home run proved to be the difference.
"I was trying to just keep it off the plate," Netemeyer said. "He just went after it and got it. I knew it was gone."
Mascoutah, which won the school's first sectional title, finished at 32-7.
"I'm real proud of this group," Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said. "I'm real proud of this team, real proud of these seniors. They did everything we asked of them. They worked their tails off."
Eddy felt the Indians were in the best position possible, taking a lead into the bottom of the seventh with Netemeyer on the mound.
The senior right-hander did not allow a hit until Trees singled leading off the fourth inning and had given up only four hits, striking out five.
Eddy said he would take that scenario "every day of the week. It is what it is. To their credit they hit a ball hard and they won. But yeah, I'd take it every day of the week."
The Indians broke up a scoreless pitching duel in the fifth after Griffin starter Ben McElwee hit Parker Pearman with a pitch leading off the inning.
Pearman was bunted to second by Collin Renth, then went to third when a pitch got away from Trees, the Griffin catcher.
Mascoutah's Alex Oltmann smacked a fly ball deep enough to right field to score Pearman with the game's first run.
The Cyclones tied it in the top of the sixth when Trees scored from second on a ball hit by Steve Santore that Oltmann couldn't handle at short. Oltmann appeared to be distracted by a baserunner in front of him on the play.
With the game still scoreless, Biekert threw out Nolan Ahern at the plate after Ahern had tagged up at third and tried to score on Cole Daily's fly ball to medium center field.
Mascoutah catcher Austin Waugh picked up a tough throw and jumped to make a diving tag at the plate.
"That's a huge play," Eddy said. "It even short-hopped Waugh a little bit and Waugh was able to pick it and tag the kid out. It was a great play."
Griffin's first hit off Netemeyer was a leadoff single in the fourth by Trees, an 11th round pick by the Reds and also a Louisville recruit.
A double by Kevin Zanger left runners at second and third for Griffin, but Netemeyer gunned a high fastball by Cal Elvers for the final out.
Trees was asked which was more exciting, being drafted by the Reds on Saturday or the trip to the state tournament.
"This week's been unbelievable," he said. "It just doesn't seem real."
Griffin coach Mike Eck was proud of the win.
"These guys scratched and clawed all year, I knew we weren't going to give up," Eck said. "I figured he had to be getting tired and wow, what a clutch hit; White and Trees both coming through at the end."
The end was not what the Indians wanted to see after one of the best seasons in school history.
"It's been a great run that we've had," Netemeyer said. "This senior group I've played baseball with most of my life. It's just been unbelievable what we've done. I wish we could have gone a lot further."