The Aurora Houn' Dawgs were a strike away from one of the most disappointing defeats in recent memory. Down 1-0 with two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning of the district championship, the Dawgs' dreams of returning to the state playoffs for another shot at the championship were dwindling.
And then Matthew Miller got the pitch he was hoping to see.
And crushed it over the left-centerfield fence.
Aurora players, coaches and fans alike erupted with a combination of glee and relief that only comes with a season-saving moment like the one provided by Miller's three-run walk-off homer, and the Dawgs celebrated a 3-1 victory and their second straight district championship.
Now the dream of returning to the final four is still intact, but it barely stuck around Tuesday night, as the Houn' Dawgs struggled to get the offense going until that final inning.
Trailing 1-0 since the first inning when the Wildcats pushed across a run with a bit of small ball, the Houn' Dawgs put men on base and in scoring position throughout the contest but could not come up with a big hit through the first six innings
Or a hit at all, for that matter, until pinch hitter Payton Evans led off the seventh with a bloop single to spark the Aurora offense. Ninth-place hitter Miah Fisher moved Evans to second with a sacrifice bunt, and leadoff man Wyatt Sparks hit a deep fly to right to advance him to second.
After Kaleb Baker drew a walk, in stepped Miller, who was 0-for-3 on the day with three popouts at that point. The Rogersville pitcher blew a couple pitches by him to get within one strike of the district title, but Miller knew what was coming next.
"He was trying to overpower us all day, and he kind of did at the beginning," Miller said after the game. "I knew he was going to throw me a fastball up and away. . . I just had to put a good swing on it."
That good swing saved the day and the season for the Houn' Dawgs, and preserved a win for pitcher Zac Shoemaker, who was solid on the mound for seven innings. Shoemaker allowed just one run (unearned) on four hits while striking out 10 and waking one.
After the game, the two shared an embrace as the emotions of the game overflowed.
"He was just telling me he loved me," said Miller, who undoubtedly is now loved by the entirety of the Houn' Dawg baseball fanbase.
With Tuesday's win, Aurora (23-3) advances to next week's sectional round, where they will face a familiar Monett (21-4) team. The Houn' Dawgs defeated the Cubs 4-0 back in April, a game in which Sparks threw a one-hit shutout.
Aurora will play host to the sectional game, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. next Tuesday, May 23.