HIBBING — It’s one of the rarest plays in baseball, but the Hibbing VFW baseball team pulled it off to perfection.
With one out in the bottom of the bottom of the fourth inning and Josh Kivela on third base, the Hibbing High School junior-to-be surprised everybody and took off for home on a straight steal.
Kivela, who has some wheels, beat the throw to the plate for a steal of home.
That was one of nine runs Post 1221 scored in the fourth inning en route to a 13-3 victory over Greenway Friday at Al Nyberg Field.
Hibbing co-coach Tim Zubich was coaching third at the time, with his brother Chris sitting in the dugout.
He had no clue that Kivela was going to attempt that feat.
“On the first pitch, he took a couple of hard steps, and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s faking it,’” Chris Zubich said. “The second time he did it it was, ‘Nope, he’s going.’ My brother said, ‘If you want to go, go.’ The pitcher was slow to the plate, and Josh can run.
“He took off hard. We made sure to holler at the batter not to swing. It was a close play, but you love to see it. It’s something you don’t see every day. I’m glad it worked out, but we had bases loaded and nobody out. We didn’t have a lot to lose. It worked out.”
Before that, Greenway got on the board first when Westin Smith singled, stole second and third. He scored when Ethan Newman hit a sacrifice fly.
Post 1221 had an identical inning in the bottom of the first except Josh Kivela walked, stole second and took third on a ground out. Logan Gietzen hit a foul ball to third, and when the third baseman crashed into the fence, Kivela raced home with the tying run.
Hibbing starting pitcher Logan Maxwell had a one-two-three second inning, then his team got him a 2-1 lead during the bottom of the inning.
The inning started with a single by Maxwell, then he was sacrificed to second. Nathan Maki was hit by a pitch, but Kasey Niskanen hit a fielder’s choice ground ball, forcing Maxwell out at third.
Kivela walked to load the bases, then Keeghan Fink walked to force home a run. Post 1221 did leave the bases loaded, but that Greenway got that run back in the game with a run in the third.
With two out, Smith singled and stole second. Ezra Carlson followed with a double off the left-field fence and it was 2-2.
After a balk sent Carlson to third, Maxwell walked Newman, but he got the next hitter to fly out to end the inning.
In the Hibbing third, Wyatt Collins drew a one-out walk, then he took second on an errant pick-off throw. With two out, Collins stole third and scored when the throw went into leftfield.
“If you can score in every inning, you will win most games,” Zubich said. “It was a tight game until the fourth. We had some good at bats. We were patient. When we did hit the ball, we hit it hard.”
Hibbing added to its lead in the fourth in a big way.
Joe Scipioni reached second on a throwing error, then Ethan Aune struck out, but he reached on a wild pitch, putting runners on first and third. Kivela bunted for a base hit, loading the bases.
Fink lined an RBI single, then with one out, Mammenga walked to force home a run.
With Edric Cardona at the plate, Kivela took off for home and beat the throw to plate to steal home.
“He was in his windup and taking his time, so they told me to get going,” Kivela said. “I went. Coach said get a big lead and go. I was wondering if the batter was going to get out of my way or not.
“He did. I beat the ball there. It’s exciting. I haven’t been able to do that before.”
With two out, Evan Radovich singled home two runs, then Nathan Johnson and Scipioni walked. Jack Bautch followed with a two-run single, then Kivela doubled home a run to make it 12-2.
On the verge of being 10-runned, Greenway started with a base hit by Ethan Ambuehl, but he was forced at second by Smith.
Smith stole second, then took third on a wild pitch. Greenway avoided the 10-run rule when Smith scored on a ground out by Carlson.
Gietzen was hit by a pitch to start the Post 1221 fifth, then Mammenga singled. Cardona then ripped a single down the left-field line to plate Gietzen with the winning run.
Zubich liked the way his team approached their at bats in that inning.
“We didn’t want them trying to do too much,” Zubich said. “We had a couple of guys coming up that swing a little harder when they think they can do something with it. We had two-straight hits, and we squared it up, too.
“We’re leaving that high stuff up. Early in the year, we were swinging at everything. We have a better approach, and that’s good to see.”
Maxwell got the win, tossing three innings, three innings of three-hit ball. He struck out three and walked one. Radovich worked two innings, allowing one hit. He struck out three and walked one.
Eathan Ambuehl started for Greenway, tossing one inning. He gave up one hit and walked one. Israel Hartman worked 2 2/3 innings. He gave up four hits, striking out three and walking six. Carlson worked 1/3 of an inning, giving up two hits, and Marcus Mack gave up two hits, while facing three batters in the fifth.
Kivela was the only Post 1221 batter to get two hits.
Smith had two hits for Greenway.