CHAPMANVILLE — Leading by three runs after four innings all looked well for the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team in its Class AA regional semifinal game with Wayne on Monday at Chapmanville’s Ted Ellis Field.
Three more innings and with some luck in the upcoming regional final the Tigers could be going back to Charleston to defend its state championship.
But baseball is a funny game.
Strange things can happen and nothing seems to hold to form.
You can’t count on anything.
Leads go away.
Championship teams fall.
That’s what happened last night as a determined Wayne team rallied for four unanswered runs to defeat No. 6-ranked Chapmanville 6-5, ending the Tigers’ season at 20-11 and halting Chapmanville’s plans on making it back to the state tournament.
The Class AA No. 10-ranked Pioneers, which split the season series with Cardinal Conference foe Chapmanville, improved to 18-12 and is scheduled to host either Herbert Hoover or Poca — a pair of other league foes — on Wednesday night in the 2A Region 4 championship game.
Down 5-2, Wayne plated a pair of runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh to take a one-run lead.
Pioneers’ relief pitcher Mike Perry then finished off his masterful performance by getting the Tigers out in the bottom of the seventh with the only hitch being a two-out walk to Tristan Thompson. He then fanned senior Tyler Killen for the last out.
Perry, a sophomore right-hander, was credited with the win as he pitched 3.1 innings of relief, allowing no runs and no hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. He relieved lefty starter Brandon Maynard, who went 3.2 innings and yielded five runs and six hits with six strikeouts and three walks.
Wayne coach Todd Ross was thrilled with the win over the Tigers.
“Anytime you beat Chapmanville it’s a big win. It’s a huge rivalry for us,” Ross said. “It seems like all the games are all close and they are all just like this one. We know that we’re going to have a big battle when we play Chapmanville.”
Chapmanville coach Eric Ellis said his team just came up short.
“One more big hit is what we needed but it’s a tough region and the game is a war. We had hoped to get that one big hit when we needed it but unfortunately it was Wayne who got it,” he said.
Ross said his team’s senior leadership showed.
“Our record doesn’t show it but we’ve played pretty well all year and we’ve been in every game,” he said. “We’ve tried to stay in it and get each other’s back. Brandon didn’t have it tonight but we had his back. We stayed in it and battled to the end. This is the third time Mikey has had to come in (in relief) and each time he’s done a whale of a job. He came in big for us. Our seniors have character. They don’t want to lose. It could be their last game, so they were going to give it all that they’ve got. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got some seniors with character.”
It was the last prep game for Chapmanville’s five seniors, including: Killen; Tyler Cox; Jordan Banks; Tyler Collins; and Joe Woody.
Banks, Chapmanville’s ace left-hander, started on the hill but was pulled in the fifth inning. He allowed three runs and three hits with five strikeouts and three walks. When Coach Ellis went to the bullpen, calling on Cox, Banks walked off the field and tossed his glove into the side of the dugout.
Cox, the Tigers’ flamethrowing right-hander, pitched with high velocity but was wild at times and was eventually tagged with the loss. In three innings, Cox gave up three runs and three hits with two walks, two hit batters and four strikeouts.
“You teach the kids all year to throw strikes and play defense and you win games but we let it get away,” Coach Ellis said. “We had a three-run lead but in the last four runs they scored they hit one ball out of the infield. We walked guys but that’s just part of the game.”
Trailing 5-4 in the top of the seventh, the Pioneers were three outs from defeat.
Wayne, however, wasn’t done.
Ryan Harless led off by drawing a walk off Cox. Tyler Adkins then dribbled an infield single deep in the hole at second, beating out the play by a step. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Harless scored on an RBI single by Ryan Williams to tie it up 5-5 with nobody out.
Cox then hit Zack Cassidy and Jared Hunter hit into a fielder’s choice play at the plate to cut down a run.
But then Allen Bryant was hit by another pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in a run to make it 6-5 Pioneers. It proved to be the game winner. Cox was able to get out of the jam as Corey Pancake hit into a force out to end the inning.
The damage was done, however.
Wayne then finished off the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh to get the win.
The Pioneers began their rally in the top of the fifth as No. 9 hitter Trevor Chadwick led off with a walk off Banks. Ellis then made a pitching change to bring in Cox. The righty then walked Harless and gave up an RBI groundout by Williams, which trimmed the Tiger lead to 5-3. Harless later came around on a wild pitch to make it 5-4.
“Tyler had thrown so well this year. Banks’ velocity wasn’t there and he was starting to labor,” Ellis said. “He walked the No. 9 man and they were rolling in to the top of the order. We didn’t want to give up a big inning so we decided to go with Tyler. If I had to make that decision again I would do the same thing.”
Wayne had jumped ahead 2-0 in the first as Harless tripled and scored on an RBI single by Cassidy to left. Adkins walked and scored on a Chapmanville error.
The Tigers tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the second on freshman catcher Scottie Thompson’s two-run single.
Chapmanville then threatened again in the third by loading the bases with nobody out as Brock Dalton singled, Banks laced a hard-smashing hit-and-run double to right and Collins walked.
Wayne then turned a tapper to the mound for a nifty 1-2-3 double play to get some breathing room but the Tigers still had two runners in scoring position.
Tristan Thompson, a freshman infielder and outfielder, then made Wayne pay as he delivered an RBI single to center to put the Tigers ahead 3-2.
The two big hits by the two freshmen Thompsons were huge in the early going.
“That was big time for those guys,” Ellis said. “They stepped up and got big hits.”
Chapmanville then went ahead 5-2 in the bottom of the fourth as Banks ripped an opposite field RBI single to left and Collins clubbed a hard-bouncing RBI single off the mound and into center field.
Banks finished the game 2-for-4. Tyler Cox added a single for Chapmanville.
The Tigers outhit Wayne 7-6 for the game but had three errors to just one for the Pioneers.
Coach Ellis praised his senior class, which had helped the Tigers to last year’s 35-3 record and Class AA state championship.
“We played five seniors this year and a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “Hopefully, this is a good learning lesson for our young guys and they will come back and work harder. I’m proud of our seniors. All five of them played a lot of baseball and contributed a lot to this program. They were all heavy contributors to last year’s state championship team.”
With last night’s loss, Logan County is now officially shut out of next week’s state baseball tournament at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park.
Logan was upset by South Charleston last Thursday in its Class AAA sectional final. Man had previously lost to Charleston Catholic in its Single-A sectional title game.
Almost every year since 2000 there had been at least one — and sometimes two — county teams in the state baseball tournament.