He began Tuesday's game with the mindset of a closer.
Interesting, since Cory Gantz is a fixture in the starting rotation for Hempfield's baseball team, and by his recollection hasn't closed a game since …
"Probably my freshman year," the junior righty said with a smile. "When I was younger I used to come in and close a lot."
Tuesday, Gantz closed out Solanco, in more ways than one.
Taking the hill in the top of the 11th inning in the resumption of Thursday's suspended game, Gantz (2-1) retired the middle of the Golden Mules' lineup. He singled to lead off the bottom of the inning and scored the winning run on an infield error in an 8-7 final in an L-L Sections One-Two crossover in Landisville.
"My mindset was to come out and pitch like a closer," Gantz said. "The little bit of experience I had helped."
To be sure, no one involved had much experience with resuming a suspended game. Black Knights boss Jack Merrifield said he had never been part of such an event in his 35 years of coaching.
Solanco skipper Tom Fish said he had experienced it once, as a player for Penn Manor in a 1997 game at Elizabethtown. The Comets had to return to E-town to resume the suspended game, but the action was brief.
"One pitch," Fish said.
He had hoped to avoid another fast finish, since not only is Solanco battling the Bears for a Section Two playoff berth - the two contenders collide Wednesday in E-town - but also because it's a 45-minute haul from Solanco to Hempfield.
"What're you going to do?" he asked with a shrug. "It would've been great (to win). But our big game is (Wednesday)."
Behind 0-2 in the count, Gantz stroked an opposite-field single to left off Harrison Ault. He took second on Shaun Corso's bunt single and both runners advanced on a wild pitch to Nick Yarnall, who was then walked intentionally to load the bases.
Nate Booth, also behind 0-2, stroked a grounder to short, but the ball was momentarily bobbled by Kyle Eby, allowing Gantz to sprint home with the winning run.
"We coach our guys that (two-strike) approach: Stay behind the ball and try to put it in play," Merrifield said. "Little things like that win big games."
Indeed. And now the Knights (10-1 L-L, 14-2 overall) move one game ahead of defending champ Cedar Crest (10-3, 13-3) and two games in front of Penn Manor (9-4, 9-7) with three games remaining in the regular season.
Hempfield hosts the Comets Wednesday.
Ephrata (11-2, 13-4) is in control of Section Two, leaving Solanco (8-5, 12-5) to duel E-town (7-6, 8-8) for second place.
The Mules were three outs away from a 7-4 win Thursday when Hempfield rallied for three runs, two coming on Corso's home run.
The game eventually went 10 innings - and three hours - until umpires suspended it due to darkness.
The emotional tug of war seemed to exhaust both sides; the Knights and Mules both lost the following day.
Now they seem energized for the stretch run.
"We'll get after it (Wednesday)," Gantz said.