Bleak in baseball is when your team falls behind by a lot of runs early in a win-or-go-home post-season tournament game.
That was host Paul Laurence Dunbar's dire situation when No. 5 Lafayette led the unranked Bulldogs 7-0 in the top of the third inning of the 43rd District semifinals Tuesday night.
But Dunbar Coach Larry Poynter knew just what to say when he gathered his players in front of the dugout.
"Coach told us it was going to be the greatest comeback in the district, and that everyone was going to remember it," Bulldogs junior Grant Herald said.
Poynter's prediction came true, with Herald delivering the dramatic final hit — a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth that chased home Clint Baumgardner to give Dunbar an 8-7 victory.
"Unbelievable, unbelievable," Herald said after being mobbed by his teammates.
Dunbar advances to the district finals Wednesday night when it will face Lexington Catholic.
The district winner and runner-up both qualify for the 11th Region tournament next week.
Lafayette looked like it was headed to the region for the first time in seven years when Aaron Fitzpatrick's two-run triple and Jason Fergerson's two-run homer helped build that 7-0 lead.
The Generals got all of their runs off Dunbar starter Tyler Cox, who was lifted after giving up back-to-back doubles to start the third.
But Lafayette, which feasted early, suffered a run famine the rest of the night. Bulldogs relievers Stephen Holdren, Stephen Shunk and Clay Branham blanked the Generals over the last five innings.
"They did awesome," Poynter said.
And Dunbar's bats came alive, chipping away against Lafayette senior left-hander Anderson Miller.
The Bulldogs got two runs in the bottom of the third and one in the fifth to pull to within 7-3.
Miller exited after that, and Poynter thought that was a key. "Fortunately, we were able to get (Miller's) pitch count up and get him off the mound."
Dunbar got to Lafayette relievers Austin Messner and Tyler Pope for four runs in the sixth to tie it. Baumgardner and Connor Huskey had RBI hits in the rally.
"When we got that four-spot, I knew we were going to win," Baumgardner said. "We had the momentum and we weren't giving it up."
Baumgarder led off the eighth and was hit by a pitch. Huskey sacrificed Baumgardner to second.
Herald came to the plate with two outs. Was he nervous? "No," he said. "I knew I was going to get a fastball, and I was going to drive it up the middle."
He did, and the Bulldogs had one of the greatest comebacks in district history.
Dunbar's offensive heroes included Tyler Zander and Huskey, who each had two hits and two RBI, and Baumgardner, who reached base five times, drove in two runs and scored the game-winner.
Branham pitched the last three innings to get the win.
"What ultimately made (the comeback) possible is the kids believed they could do it," Poynter said.
"We never give up," he said, "We have the desire to win when things are at their worst."
Lafayette 052 000 00—7 10 3
Paul Dunbar 002 014 01—8 7 0
Anderson Miller, Austin Messner (6), Tyler Pope (6), Jes Staples (7) and Jason Fergerson. Tyler Cox, Stephen Holdren (3), Stephen Shunk (4), Clay Branham (6) and Connor Huskey. 2B--Andy Gumm, 2 (L), Lucas Williams (L), Tyler Zander (PD). 3B--Aaron Fitzpatrick (L). HR--Jason Fergerson (L).
Records—Lafayette 26-10; Dunbar 24-13.
Lexington Catholic 6, Tates Creek 0: Zach Haynes, a senior right-hander, starred on the mound for the Knights. He threw five innings of no-hit ball, including five strikeouts, before giving way to Colton Cleary.
Haynes (7-0), who has signed with Indiana, got into trouble only once when Tates Creek loaded the bases on two walks and an error with one out in the fourth. Haynes got out of the jam by getting a pop-out and a strikeout.
Lexington Catholic took the lead with a four-run third that included a leadoff triple by Corey Wells, a two-run single by Logan Taylor and an RBI triple by Trey Miller.
Miller raced home when Tates Creek was slow getting the ball back to the infield.
The Knights added to their lead in the fourth without getting the ball out of the infield. They parlayed a walk, a bunt single and a couple of errors into runs by Colton Cleary and Will Hurt.
Tates Creek's first hit came when sophomore Devin Hairston led off the sixth with a single off Cleary. Tanner Hart had a single in the seventh for the Commodores.
Cleary had four strikeouts in his two innings of work.
Tates Creek 000 000 0—0 2 2
Lexington Catholic 004 200 x—6 6 1
Aaron Mitchell, Cody Bronaugh (4), Caleb Johnson (6) and Nathan Black. Zach Haynes and Riley Jackson. 3B—Trey Miller (LC), Corey Wells (LC).
Records—Tates Creek 22-15; Lexington Catholic 30-7.