War Eagle baseball wins epic playoff game

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

When the Davie baseball team entered the 4-A playoffs as the No. 22 seed in the West Region, there was certainly nothing in its recent past to suggest that anything special was about to happen at Watauga on May 7.

But just when you thought the War Eagles, who were coming off three losses to Glenn in a span of seven days, were done, they gave us this. They shed the stink of Glenn with a 3-2 first-round win that won’t soon be forgotten. It was an epic 12-inning triumph over the No. 11 Pioneers, who came in with 15 wins in 21 tries.

“It’s a hard game to explain because if you look at the stat sheet, you’re not gonna see everything that happened in that game,” coach Joey Anderson said. “You had two teams giving everything they possibly could, playing their hearts out to move to the next round.”

“It was probably one of the most fun games that I’ve played here,” Watauga senior Jake Henderson told the Watauga Democrat. “I’ve never played in a game that went this long.”

Davie’s second life began in the third inning, when Coston Colamarino reached on an error and Coy James walked. After Watauga got the first out, Hunter Potts jumped on the first offering and laced a two-run single to left.

Davie held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh. Cole Whitaker, who relieved Braeden Rodgers to begin the inning, retired the first batter but then yielded a single. That Pioneer stole second and third and scored the tying run on a hit.

With the score 2-2, Anderson gave the ball to Connor Berg. Watauga tried to push the winning run into scoring position, but catcher Drew Krause gunned a throw to James to cut him down and force extra innings.

Then it seemed like a game that would never end. In the ninth, Watauga had visions of walking it off. The home team got a pinch-hit single, and after a sac bunt, Anderson ordered an intentional walk to set up the force.

One of the game’s signature moments ensued. Left fielder Craig McBride left his feet to snare a sinking liner. He bounced up and doubled up the runner at second to send the game to the 10th.

“They made four or five diving plays,” Anderson said. “We made five or six diving plays.”

“One of the most well-put-together games that I’ve ever played in,” Watauga’s Cooper Critcher said. “Both teams played great team baseball all the way to the end. There aren’t too many major league games that I’ve seen that were as competitive or put together as that game right there.”

Neither team could scratch in the 10th or 11th, but Davie manufactured one in the 12th. After McBride walked, Colamarino was called safe on a bang-bang play at first, resulting in a bunt hit. James walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Watauga went to the bullpen, and two pitches later, McBride scampered home on a wild pitch to give Davie the 3-2 lead – the visitors’ first run in nine innings.

Davie was looking for more, but Colamarino was thrown out at home by the second baseman.

In the last of the 12th, Berg got the first batter on a popup to second baseman Carson Queen and induced a groundout to third baseman Colamarino.

Watauga, though, refused to go quietly. JT Cook doubled to keep the Pioneers alive. But it was a priceless moment for Davie when the next batter bounced out to shortstop James.

“That’s one of the best games that I’ve ever played,” Watauga’s Jameson Hodges said. “It didn’t end the way that we wanted, but I still enjoyed it.”

The starter and long reliever deserve tons of credit for keeping Davie’s season alive at 13-10. Rodgers was outstanding over six innings, as he scattered six hits, allowed one run and lowered his ERA to 2.23 over 10 starts.

Then it was Berg who was just humming along in the eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th. Of course he was; his ERA dropped to 1.62 after he produced 5.2 scoreless innings. He threw 46 of 63 pitches for strikes and picked up his sixth win.

“Connor basically threw a second game for us,” Anderson said.

Then there were the unsung heroes. Corbin Angus, who had seen just 16 at-bats all year, came out of nowhere with two hits. Don’t forget Logan Allen, who mashed a double as a pinch hitter. Davie got one hit from Potts, Cooper Bliss and Colamarino and advanced despite getting outhit 10-6.

“It was a heckuva game,” Anderson said. “I hated to coach it because it about gave me a heart attack.”

Notes: This was Davie’s second win over Watauga, the other being 3-0 on April 20. … Davie has a four-game winning streak in first-round games. … In the second round at Cox Mill, the War Eagles burst to 3-0, 5-3 and 8-6 leads, but they couldn’t find the magic to finish it off, losing 11-9. A story on that one will appear next week.