SHELBY - Jacob Willis and Clay Duncan are the two captains for the Norwalk baseball team.
The duo showed why as the Truckers rallied past Willard 7-5 in nine innings Tuesday for a Division II sectional title at Shelby High School.
Norwalk, 13-10, is scheduled to play Perkins, a 3-2 winner over Bellevue, in a district semifinal May 17 at Galion's Heise Park.
The Truckers have advanced to the district tournament for the fourth straight year.
"It's something to be proud of,'' Norwalk coach Wes Douglas said. "It's a huge learning experience for our younger guys. It keeps the energy going for the remaining league games.''
Meanwhile, the Flashes dropped to 14-9 with three Northern Ohio League games left on the schedule.
Willis went 4-of-4 from the plate with a run scored. He also entered in the bottom of the ninth inning in relief and squelched a Willard threat to end the game.
"I just knew I had to throw strikes,'' Willis said. "I knew we had good defense behind me.''
After the Truckers broke a 4-4 tie with three runs in the home half of the ninth, Willard mounted a charge in the bottom of the frame. Patrick Johnson, a pinch hitter, and P.J. Spayde both singled off starter Duncan.
Willis induced a fielder's choice for the first out. Evan Bailey's double scored Johnson, but a pop out and another fielder's choice closed out the Flashes.
Meanwhile, Duncan, who worked all seven scoreless innings in Norwalk's opening tournament win against Ontario, allowed five runs on 10 hits with three strikeouts and one walk for his eighth win.
Willard roughed him up for four runs in the top of the first, but he settled down and gave up just one the rest of the way.
"I had great defense behind me,'' Duncan said. "I just kept battling. I wanted to keep the ball low and let the defense do the work.''
Duncan said the team didn't let down after the early deficit.
"I've been around a lot of baseball,'' he said. "A lot can happen. We just battled and the outcome was in our favor.''
Douglas was glad to have both Willis and Duncan around.
"The two captains were the difference,'' Douglas said. "Those two guys have had great careers. We just kept plugging way. There's been a lot of tournament magic over the last four years.''
Norwalk forced the extra innings with two runs in the top of the seventh.
Dan Greenwell reached on an error and Andrew Enderle walked. Matt Hamons relieved starter Sylvester Nino. Willis pushed a single to right to score Greenwell and Duncan's RBI fielder's choice plated Enderle with the game-tying run.
In the top of the ninth, Enderle reached base on an error.
Willis followed with a single to right. An error on a double play ball scored Enderle, giving Norwalk a 5-4 lead.
Craig Casper followed with a single to score another run and Taylor Todd's bases loaded infield hit brought in the seventh run.
After the Truckers took a 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the first, the Flashes responded with four in the bottom of the inning. Spayde and Nino started with singles. A Bailey sacrifice fly scored Spayde.
Jared Nester's single up the middle scored Nino with the second run and Hamons' opposite field double down the left-field line brought in Justin McDowell and Nester as Willard took a 4-1 advantage.
But Willard could only muster one more run from that point on, despite having chances.
In the sixth, Nester was caught off third on a catcher-pitcher-third baseman play with one out.
The big blow, however, happened in the eighth when the Flashes loaded the bases with no outs.
A Hamons liner was nabbed by third baseman Nate McIntyre, who tagged out the runner at third for a double play. A fly ball ended the inning.
"After the first, we knew four runs wouldn't be enough,'' Willard coach Joe Whitmer said. "We didn't get it done 1 to 9. We had opportunities to score. My hats off to Clay Duncan.''
Casper added two hits, while Enderle, McIntyre and Todd contributed one each. Enderle scored four runs.
Nester led the Flashes with three hits. Spayde and Nino posted two hits each, while Bailey, McDowell, Hamons and Johnson chipped in with one each.
Hamons took the loss, going 22/3 innings and allowing three runs on three hits with three walks and one strikeout. Nino gave up four runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six plus innings.
McDowell went a 1/3 of an inning and allowed one hit with one strikeout.
WP: Duncan. LP: Hamons.
2B: Enderle (N), Hamons (W), Bailey (W).