PINE GROVE Even with a 5-0 lead, Marian head coach Jeff Nietz wasn't comfortable.
As it turned out, he had every reason to be anxious.
Devin Masser delivered a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning to help Tri-Valley complete a comeback and gain a 7-6 victory in the semifinal round of the District 11 Class A playoffs.
"When you play Tri-Valley, the game is never over until the final out," said Nietz. "We were concerned even with that 5-0 lead. The pitch count was high for Ryan (Gimbi). Plus they were hitting the ball hard but right at us. He was starting to run out of gas and he eventually did.
"The game was like a huge pendulum of momentum. First it swung our way and then it went theirs. They took advantage of being the home team on the board and getting that last at-bat."
In that last at-bat, the Bulldogs' Shane Wert led off with a single. One batter later, Masser drilled a ball over Marian's centerfielder to chase home the winning run.
Tri-Valley will now meet Nativity Tuesday for the district championship.
"I'm extremely disappointed for the boys," said Nietz. "They played their hearts out. We gained momentum (Thursday) and I wasn't sure how we'd come out. We came back and gained the momentum again."
The semifinal tilt actually started Thursday and the Colts took a 3-0 advantage until a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning suspended play.
Marian scored two of those runs in the third inning when Justin Petrovich and Corey Ryba had back-to-back doubles and Gimbi delivered an RBI single.
After play resumed Friday, the Colts extended the margin to 5-0 in the fifth. With two outs, JT Keer singled and Mark Stawick followed with a two-run homer to deep left.
Tri-Valley, however, answered with three runs in the home fifth. After an error and hit batter, Bud Whery's two-out double chased home two runs. Wert brought in Whery with a single.
"We made a few mistakes in the later stages of the game and that was our downfall," said Nietz.
Marian scored in the sixth when Brandon Dopira's doubled knocked in Mike Cataldo, who was pinch running after Ron Kosar had singled. But another Colt error helped contribute to Tri-Valley scoring three runs in the home sixth.
A walk and that error set up a two-run double by Tad Ney. Dalton Miller also doubled later in the frame to tie the contest at 6-6.
Even with giving up the lead, Nietz felt like his team still had a chance to advance.
"Wert was done after the seventh and we felt confident if we could extend the game we'd be able to get the job done against their relievers," said the Marian mentor.
Unfortunately, the Colts never got that chance as Tri-Valley took care of business in the home seventh.
Wert went the distance, striking out nine, to earn the win.
Keer had two hits for Marian.
"This game was indicative of how the season went chaos due to the weather," said Nietz. "Playing the game in two seperate days does make a difference. I'm not making excuses, but it does play on you.
"Under the circumstances of playing a nine-week schedule in four weeks the guys did a great job. These kids just loved to play the game."
Marian 102 021 0 - 6 8 2
Tri-Valley 000 033 1 - 7 7 1
Gimbi, Stawick (6) and Stawick, Nietz (6); Wert and Bair. W - Wert. L - Stawick. HR: Marian - Stawick (5th, one on).