Chatham’s potent bats were handcuffed for nearly six innings by Appomattox sophomore Cam Smith’s two-seam fastball on the outer half of the plate.
It was a devastating pitch the Cavaliers repeatedly chased out of the zone, leaving them feeling frustrated heading back to the dugout.
Once Smith exited the game with two outs in the sixth inning, Chatham found its opportunity to strike. And the Cavaliers didn’t miss in an electric seventh inning.
Chatham scored four times on four hits, highlighted by Hunter Adkins’ walkoff single off the left-field wall, to rally for a dramatic 6-5 victory over the Raiders in the Region 2C championship game at Liberty Christian Academy.
Chatham (21-4) is scheduled to host Region 2D runner-up John Battle at 6 p.m. Tuesday, while Appomattox (13-11) will play at Region 2D champion Lebanon on Tuesday.
“I was just looking to drive something back side,” said Adkins, who went 2 for 4. “With no outs, trying to get the run in from third, go ahead, get up and win the region championship.”
The Chatham dugout spilled onto the field and began the celebration before pinch-runner Henry Hurt could cross the plate for the thrilling triumph, a victory that seemed in doubt thanks to Smith’s dynamic pitching performance.
The southpaw allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits in the first inning and did not surrender another hit until Adkins’ one-out single to third base in the sixth.
Smith was lifted after throwing 112 pitches, 71 for strikes.
“It’s been a process with him all year,” Appomattox coach Joe Caruso said. “We’ve battled some control issues at times, but to do that against that good of a team, that’s awfully impressive. Couldn’t ask for more.”
Smith utilized his two-seam fastball on the outer half of the plate and forced the Cavaliers to chase out of the zone. That allowed him to attack the zone with his secondary pitches for the majority of his nine strikeouts.
“It’s huge,” Smith said of his performance. “I was in a slump toward the beginning, but I’ve found it the past two or three games.”
The Cavaliers’ first two batters of the seventh — Graham Dalton and Grayson Reed — reached against Jacob Johnson, forcing Caruso to bring in Dennis Ward to pitch.
Matt Arnold reached on an error to load the bases and Brae Adkins drove in his 55th run of the season with a sharp-hit single to right field that scored Dalton to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Andrew Potojecki, who also took the mound and allowed one hit over the final two innings to record the victory, flared a single to right field that scored Reed and Arnold to tie the game at 5-all. Hurt moved from first to third on the play.
“I wasn’t really looking to hit a dink single, but whatever works honestly,” Potojecki said of his only hit of the game. “At that point, everybody’s just trying to fight, we’re trying to keep that mentality and just keep going. Just to see it drop, that’s what we needed to keep us fired up right there. That was best scenario possible.”
The Cavaliers tallied two hits in the first inning and took a 1-0 lead after Reed tripled and scored on Arnold’s groundout to second.
Appomattox responded with three runs on two hits and four walks in the third to take a 3-1 lead. Ward’s single drove in the first run, and Luke Olimpio and Tristan Lovins drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks.
Adkins scored when Dalton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the second to cut the Raiders’ lead to 3-2.
Olimpio’s sacrifice fly drove in Johnny Hamlett in the fourth, and Lovins scored on Patterson’s single in the fifth to take a three-run lead that held until the fateful seventh inning.
“It stings. It stings. You come out and you play to win,” Caruso said. “The one thing I never question is the heart our kids put into it. That’s all you can ask. After running through the tournament to get to this point, you knew pitching might be a little thin, and I think our pitching ran out of a little bit of gas. It took the whole regional tournament and six innings of the championship game, but it finally happened.”