Only one out stood between the Huntington North High School softball team and playing for the Class 4A state title for the second year in a row when foe Portage knotted the game up 1-1, sending things into extra innings, where the Lady Vikings eventually lost the Harrison Softball Semi-State championship game 2-1 in nine innings on Saturday, June 1.
Huntington North advanced out of semifinals earlier in the day with a 6-0 win over Harrison, but offense wasn't nearly as easy to come by against Portage.
Lady Viking ace Erin Rethlake and Indian counterpart Kiley Jones locked in a pitcher's duel, keeping the game scoreless for the first five innings.
But in the bottom of the sixth, Huntington North's lone senior, Audrey Hiner, smacked a double down the left field line that plated Maddi Kennedy, giving the Lady Vikings the late 1-0 lead.
Portage was just as stubborn at the plate as Jones was on the mound, however, and Alexis Johnson's two-out single brought home Kaitlyn Doud for the equalizing run in the top of the seventh.
Huntington North got two runners on in the bottom of the inning, but stranded the pair to see the game go into extras.
After a scoreless eighth, the Indians struck again in the top of the ninth, with Doud scoring on a Lauren Murray double to give Portage the lead, 2-1.
The Lady Vikings' season was almost at its end after two outs in its half of the frame, but a base hit by Tasha Grover kept it going. Cassy Lange next drew a walk, but Makayla Whaley struck out for the final out of the game.
Both hurlers went the distance on the mound. Rethlake yielded only two earned runs on four hits, striking out 12, while Jones ceded just one earned run and punched out nine.
Huntington North ends the season 26-3.
Alyssa Hiple had the big bat for Huntington North in the semifinal win, knocking in four runs, two of which came on a home run in the top of the seventh that made things 6-0 and iced the game for the Lady Vikings.
Rethlake allowed only four hits and struck out nine.
Kennedy started things off right for the Lady Vikes in the top of the first with a first-pitch double, and Hiple brought her home with a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead. Hiple singled in a run in the third, and Whaley's RBI-double plated Grover in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Rethlake upped the count to 4-0 on an RBI-groundout before Hiple put the exclamation point to the win with a shot over the left field fence.
Portage, 24-6, defeated Northridge 2-0 in the first game of the day to advance to the semi-state championship.
Portage scored both of its runs in the sixth inning after being held hitless for the first five frames.