Any time a team suffers a stunning defeat in a playoff series, there's always the danger of the dreaded carryover affect heading into the next game.
Wilson Hall's varsity baseball team was …
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Wilson Hall's varsity baseball team was obviously still feeling the effects of a stunning 4-3 loss at Cardinal Newman on Monday when it took Baron Field for Tuesday's second game in the best-of-3 SCISA 3A state semifinal series.
The malaise of the Cardinals' 4-run final-inning rally against Wilson Hall ace pitcher Charlton Commander was evident early in Game 2 as three errors led to three Cardinal runs. Another error, in the fifth, led to a fourth CN run as the Cardinals pulled away for a series-clinching 8-2 win.
"No doubt there was a carryover from that (Game 1 loss)," said Barons head coach Adam Jarecki. "The wind kind of went right out of our sails right there at the end (of Monday's game). We played as well as we've played all year, made nice defensive plays, we got key hits at the right times and we go into the seventh inning and lose a 3-run lead. Commander, he's our best and he's gonna be the man that we wanted the ball in his hands. It just got away from us, and I think it carried over to tonight."
Commander was one of those struggling in the field early, but he said afterwards that tough losses are just something you have to endure and get past, in baseball or in any sport.
"As a starting pitcher, you just want to give your team an opportunity to win," Commander said. "Going into the seventh like that and giving your team a chance to win is where you want to be. But being in a position like that, sometimes it just doesn't work out for you. That's the game of baseball, but every day we came out and worked hard and tried to get there. That we can say that we got there (to the semifinals) is an achievement in itself."
Game 2 starter Tanner Epps scattered eight hits over 4 2/3 innings with one strikeout, but the Barons' fielding struggles led to Epps' early departure from the hill.
Daniel Reynolds pitched the final 2 1/3 innings for Wilson Hall, allowing just one hit but walking two batters and hitting three more.
"Tanner Epps pitched well tonight. We didn't make plays behind him," Jarecki said. "We made some costly errors early that allowed them to put runners in scoring position and punch them in, and we just never got going. That's disappointing, because you hate to see it end."
CN got its first two batters, Tillman Geddings and Tanner Garrison, on after errors, with Geddings coming home as a 2-base throwing error sent Garrison to third. Garrison scored on an A.J. DePalma single to left, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead after one inning.
DePalma would be the beneficiary of another infield error in the third, following a leadoff single to left from Garrison. Both would come home on a Simon Penso single up the middle.
Trailing 4-0, the Barons scratched out their first run off side-arming righty Myles Hedgecock in the bottom of the third as Reynolds singled, took second on a 6-3 grounder from Daulton Dabbs and scored as Commander singled to left to make it 4-1.
CN stretched its lead to 7-1 with a single run in the fourth and two in the fifth before Wilson Hall scored its second run in the bottom of the sixth. Commander drew a base on balls to open the frame, took second on an Epps single to right and crossed home as Trent Elmore smashed a double into the right-centerfield gap.
CN's final run came in the top of the seventh, leaving the Barons with a 6-run deficit, but the top of the lineup at the plate in its half of the final inning. Charlie Patten came on in relief of Hedgecock and had a 1-2-3 inning.
"I'm just so proud of these guys," Jarecki said of his team, which finished with a 10-10 record. "I didn't know if we could be in this spot when it started. Our numbers are not great and we didn't have a lot of depth, so I'm awful proud of the way they competed all year. We lost a lot of close games. We had four games where we lost in the bottom of the seventh when we were ahead. We finished 10-10, a .500 year, and that's not great, but we lost some close games."
It's easier to talk about who Jarecki has coming back than who he's losing as eight of the Barons' 11 core players from this year's team will be leaving due to graduation. Epps and outfielders Chandler Scott and Wise Segars will be joined by a bevy of this year's junior varsity players next season while starters Reynolds, Dabbs, Commander, Corbin Bruce, Elmore and Bryce Lyles and reserves William Kimbrell and Jackson Lemay make up the team's 2018 senior class.
"They've been here the whole time that I've been here, and they've seen a whole lot of success," Jarecki said. "They've been a part of state championships and they've been in semifinals every year, and a couple of them were on the (2015) state championship team. As sophomores they lost the state championship and then last year they got beat in the semifinals by this same club, and they made it to the semifinals again (this year).
"They've been kind of the anchor. As kids have come and gone, those guys have always been there. It's going to be different playing baseball around here and you don't see Daniel Reynolds out here, and Daulton Dabbs, my catcher since the time I walked on to this campus, and Charlton, who's always been there and works hard. It's just going to be different. I hate to see them go, because they've been here with me the whole time I've been here."
Dabbs said hard work was a key to the Barons' unexpected run to the semifinal round this season.
"We worked hard. We had a lot of young kids move up that worked hard," the Barons catcher, and sometimes pitcher, said. "We lacked pitching, so that hurt us a good bit, but other than that we did a lot better than I expected with what we had."
Bruce played first base and batted cleanup for his senior season, accounting for many clutch hits along the way.
"We worked harder than anybody out there," Bruce said. "We came out here on days when we didn't have assigned practice to get extra swings in to try to better ourselves and put us right there with everybody else. It paid off because we got to the semifinals. Everybody doubted us, but we hung in there and fought."
"I wouldn't want to be with anyone else. They're my best friends," Dabbs said of playing with this group of seniors. "Good luck to the young guys, because there's a lot of us and we did all that we could."
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