CHATHAM — Chatham’s Class 2 state-tournament opener against John Battle on Tuesday was delayed a bit after one of the umpires got held up because of a fire in his neighborhood.
The heat the umpire experienced before making his trip to Chatham must have rubbed off on the Cavaliers’ bats as they struck for three runs in the bottom of the first against the Trojans and never looked back in a 5-0 victory over John Battle.
Chatham (22-4) advances to the state semifinals for the second year in a row where it will it take on either Stuarts Draft or Nandua on Friday at Radford University.
Graham Dalton and Grayson Reed each worked a pair of walks to lead off the game and Matt Arnold singled to right to loaded the bases for Chatham with no outs. Brae Adkins brought in his 55th RBI of the year when he worked a bases-loaded walk that scored Dalton. Andrew Potojecki helped his cause following with a sacrifice fly out to left that scored Reed and made it a 2-0 contest. Hunter Adkins rounded out the scoring when he slapped a double to right-center field that plated Arnold and gave the Cavs a three-run lead.
“That first inning was big for us, but honestly, we’re not a team that runs off momentum,” Potojecki said. “We’ve had games this year where we’ve had a bad inning and the momentum’s not in our favor but we still come out and swing it. That’s what I love about this team. We’re not momentum based. It was big for us to get the ball rolling but that’s what we wanted to do so it didn’t have a huge factor on the game.”
Potojecki took over after the three-run first, allowing only one hit and striking out 10 in the complete-game, one-hit shutout.
“A lot of focus and a lot of hard work,” Potojecki replied when asked about his performance. “I really focused in before every pitch and had the mindset of if I let a runner on, just wipe him. My mentality all night was just go at them.”
Potojecki and John Battle’s Landon Moore engaged in a pitchers’ duel from there as each team combined for only two hits over the next four-and-a-half innings. That all changed in the bottom of the sixth as Chatham plated two runs to take a 5-0 lead.
Grant Reynolds scored Luke Martin with a single to right-center. Dalton followed with a single and two batters later Matt Arnold drove in the second run of the frame on his base knock to left that gave the Cavs’ a five-run cushion heading into the final frame.
Brothers Brae and Hunter Adkins made it a family night for the Cavs as they drove in two-fifth’s of Chatham’s runs. Brae’s RBI came on a bases-loaded walk, while Hunter’s came on a run-scoring double, both coming in the decisive first. Reynolds, Potojecki and Arnold each drove in a run apiece for the Cavs.
Potojecki, who will attend and play for Longwood University in the fall, spoke of the mixed feelings he had towards ending his high-school career when he signed his letter of intent back in September. Even though he hadn’t had time to fully think about it after Tuesday’s game, Potojecki still stuck by his original statement.
“I really haven’t thought about it yet,” Potojecki said. “I’m still coming down off this performance tonight, but it’s still a little bittersweet, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This place is electrifying to play in and I’m glad we gave them a big win in the state tournament tonight.”
For Potojecki, along with fellow seniors Reed, Martin, Brady Owen, Dalton, Hunter Adkins and Thomas Rodgers, they’ll have one more chance to bring home a coveted Class 2 state title when they make the two-hour trip up the road to Radford on Friday.