Chatham coach Chad Anderson and his coaching staff have stressed to their guys all season that nervousness comes from being unprepared.
Chatham showed it doesn’t get nervous and is always prepared as it scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 11-7 defeat of Stuarts Draft in the Class 2 semifinals on Thursday night at Calfee Park.
The Cavaliers advance to play Lebanon tomorrow in the Class 2 state championship game at Calfee Park. First pitch is slated for 12 p.m.
Chatham entered the bottom off the sixth down to its final six outs and on the wrong end of a 7-6 scoreline. That’s when the Cavaliers got down to business.
Graham Dalton kicked off the rally with a lead-off single and Grayson Reed wasted no time bringing him around, smashing a triple to left-center field that bounced off the top of the fence and knotted the score at 7-all. It was Matthew Arnold’s turn next as he smacked a run-scoring base knock to center that put the Cavs back in front. Brae Adkins kept things going with a double to left and Andrew Potojecki brought Arnold and Adkins around when he smacked a double that bounced off the fence in right-center. Hunter Adkins came around to score on a Cougars’ throwing error that gave Chatham an 11-7 advantage heading into the final frame.
In a game featuring such high stakes, it would only be natural there was some drama and the dramatics were set up well before the Cavaliers’ fateful sixth inning.
Facing a 4-1 deficit heading into the middle frames, Stuarts Draft tallied five runs to take a brief lead. Arie Gutt’s bases-loaded walk cut the Cougars’ deficit to two and Mark Rodgers pulled his team within one on his sacrifice fly to left. Skyler Saunders’ run-scoring single to left knotted the score at 4-all and Dawson Jones put the Cougars back in front with his RBI single back to short. Trip Christian rounded out the rally with a run-scoring base knock to left-center that made it a 6-4 contest after four-and-a-half.
Keeping with the words of their coaches, Chatham knew it was prepared and showed no signs of nervousness, scoring a pair of runs to knot the score. Hunter Adkins brought a run around with his RBI fielder’s choice to second and Jacob Miller knotted the score at 6 with fielder’s choice back to short.
The Cougars fought back, though, tacking on a run in the top of the sixth to take a one-run edge heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Chatham’s sophomore ace Christian Lancaster got the start on the bump, representing the second consecutive time the Cavaliers’ coaching staff had entrusted the youthful righty with the start for a state semifinal game. His coaches faith was rewarded over the first two innings as Lancaster put down eight of the first nine batters he faced.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, Stuarts Draft starter Christian was just as effective, setting down six of the first eight batters he faced, while striking out three and the result was a scoreless tie after two full innings.
The Cougars found some momentum in the third with two outs to stake out an early edge. A pair of hit by pitches put runners in scoring position for Stuarts Draft and a wild pitch broke the scoreless tie and gave the Cougars an early one-run edge.
Chatham’s offense rewarded Lancaster’s performance with a four-run rally in the bottom of the third. Miller and Reynolds each reached on a single to left-center and a walk, respectively, to start the frame and Dalton loaded the bases with his bunt fielder’s choice back to the pitcher. Reed tied the game the hard way when he took a pitch in the back with the bases loaded to bring in a run and Arnold’s sacrifice fly to center gave Chatham its first lead of the game at 2-1. Brae Adkins doubled down on the Cavs’ advantage when he drove a two-run single to center that gave Chatham a 4-1 advantage.