Miami Trace head baseball coach Rob Smith said after the last time his Panthers played the Washington Blue Lions that the game had the feel of a tournament game.
That win, 6-3 at MTHS back on April 29, broke a four-game losing streak to the Blue Lions.
Back on April 13 at WHS, the Blue Lions defeated the Panthers, 10-7.
Thursday’s game in fact was a tournament game, a Sectional championship and the rubber game of the three these two Fayette County prep baseball teams have played against each other.
The drama, the emotion, the tension was almost epic as the Panthers rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 3-2 win.
The Panthers’ Brady Wallace hit a two-out, bases loaded double to the fence in left field in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Heath Cockerill and Trenton Harris. More about that later.
The victory advances Miami Trace to the District semifinals Monday in Athens. The Panthers will play the Athens Bulldogs who defeated Jackson Thursday, 1-0 in eight innings.
The game site is to be announced Friday. Coach Smith said after the game that if Jackson won, the game would likely be played at Athens High School. However, if, as it turned out, Athens won, the game would be played at Ohio University.
The starting pitchers Thursday left it all on the field.
For Miami Trace, Trevon Burnside started and pitched 5.2 innings. He did not figure in the decision. He allowed three hits and two runs (both earned) with five walks, four strikeouts and one hit batsman.
For Washington, Aaron Greer started and pitched 6.2 innings, taking the loss.
He allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
Darby Tyree came on for the Panthers and pitched the final 1.1 innings, getting the win.
He allowed one hit; the remainder of his line was all zeros.
Miami Trace had three runs on six hits and no errors.
Washington had two runs on four hits with three errors.
“It’s tournament baseball,” Smith said. “It’s Blue Lions versus Miami Trace rivalry baseball. Their kids were intense in this game. Our kids were intense. It’s one of those — I’ve been on both sides as a coach. I was on one side (Miami Trace) as a player. I know the intensity. It’s a shame that one team has to lose like that.
“Basically, the ball game came down to a couple of walks,” Smith said. “A key hit after those. Other than that, both pitchers threw a heck of a ball game. You can’t ask for more than what Trevon has given us his last three outings.
“Heath Cockerill, a sophomore, kept us alive and gave us a chance,” Smith said. “It’s the game of baseball; anything can happen.
“I thought Tyler coached another great game,” Smith said. “Court House does some things that take us out of what we do a lot. We like to run and bunt and things and, with Timmy Robinson being a great catcher, they’re taking away our bunting game the last two games.
“Luckily, we came through at the end,” Smith said. “Brady Wallace had a great hit.”
A large crowd filled the bleachers and dozens of spectators stood where they could see between the bleachers and the dugouts and well down both the right and left field lines.
The Blue Lions had a walk to Cole Massie with two outs in the top of the first. He went to second on a wild pitch, but was stranded.
In the bottom of the first, Trenton Harris led off with a single to left field. Harris stole second, but was thrown out trying to take third, catcher Tim Robinson firing to third baseman Brian Wilson who applied the tag.
Robinson led off the second for the Blue Lions with a single to left field.
He was pegged out attempting to steal second by Panthers’ catcher Mitchell Creamer.
The next two batters were retired.
In the bottom of the second, Creamer led off with a walk and an error allowed him to reach second.
After a strikeout for the first out, Creamer reached third on an error on an attempted pick-off play at second base.
With two away, Jacob Batson singled to center, scoring Creamer to make it 1-0, Panthers.
Coby Hughes bunted for the Panthers, but Robinson fielded the ball and threw to second to get Batson.
In the top of the third, Hayden Hufford led off being hit by a pitch.
Conner Chrisman grounded out, moving Hufford to second.
Caden Cluxton hit a sharp liner to Harris at third, who turned and fired to Cockerill at second for a double play.
The Panthers went out in order in the third.
In the top of the fourth, Jarett Patton led off the inning with a single to left-center.
Massie put down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Patton to second.
The next two batters were retired to stifle that threat.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Creamer drilled a deep fly ball to left-center field. It was tracked down with a nice running catch by Cluxton.
McDonald followed with a single up the middle and stole second.
The next two batters were retired, ending that scoring chance.
In the fifth, Greer led off with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch.
Trevor Mustain bunted, but the ball was popped up. Harris made a nice catch on that ball and the next batter was retired.
Hughes led off the fifth for the Panthers, reaching second on an error. However, Greer proceeded to retire the side in order.
The sixth was the break-through inning for the Blue Lions.
With one out, Patton walked and Massie had an infield hit.
A passed ball moved the runners into scoring position.
Wilson walked to load the bases and after the second out on a strikeout, Greer walked, forcing in Patton, tying the game, 1-1.
Mustain then dropped a single into right field, scoring Massie for a 2-1 Washington lead.
At this point, Burnside was lifted in favor of Tyree, who got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.
Wallace led off the sixth with a line single to center. Creamer bunted him to second, but Wallace was left standing there.
In the top of the seventh, Chrisman led off with bunt single.
After the first out was recorded, Chrisman soon broke for second base. The ball was popped foul behind first base and Drew Stevens made a nice catch, throwing to Tyree covering for a second Miami Trace double play.
This set the stage for the very dramatic ending to this classic ball game.
The first two batters were retired.
Cockerill kept the Panthers alive with a single to left field.
Harris and Josh Morton walked; each time Washington was just a strike away from winning the game.
Wallace battled Greer and Greer battled Wallace.
In the next instant, Wallace connected for a deep fly ball to left field. The ball sailed over the left-fielder’s head to the fence, scoring Cockerill and then Harris with the winning run.
“This rivalry just continues to grow,” Washington head coach Tyler Rhodus said. “Every game I’ve been a part of — I’m new to this — it’s gotten bigger and bigger and this was the biggest one, going for a Sectional title. You’ve got the two rivals, we split during the season. I kind of figured it was going to be close. Unfortunately, we were on the bad side tonight.
“Both pitchers really threw well all night,” Rhodus said. “Burnside and Greer both threw really, really well. I think Aaron got a little tired there at the end. I had confidence in him, and I still do. Trace came through with a hit at the end that they needed. That’s baseball. They executed right at the end.
“It’s a tough way to go out,” Rhodus said. “We wish we had been on the other side, because we thought we were good enough to make a run. Sadly, we didn’t. But, hats off to Trace. Good luck to them moving forward. They get to go down to Athens next week and that’ll be fun for them. Best of luck to them. They played well. They executed when they needed to.
“These seniors — I have seven seniors — I’ve been around them now for three years,” Rhodus said. “This is a hard one. It’s a big class and I got close to them. It’s always tough when the season ends, because you don’t want to lose anybody. My seniors played all year long. I wish the best for them. Some of them are going on to play baseball in college and I’m looking forward to being able to watch them. It’s about helping prepare these young men for the future. I couldn’t be happier with them.”
The Blue Lion seniors are: Caden Cluxton, Trevor Mustain, Jordan Flowers, Tim Robinson, Hayden Hufford, Cole Massie and Aaron Greer.
The Blue Lions finish the 2016 season with a record of 13-11, 8-6 in the SCOL, placing fourth.
Miami Trace improves to 16-6 on the season. The Panthers finished in third place in the SCOL with a record of 9-5.
Clinton-Massie shut out Wilmington Sunday 10-0 with a no-hitter to take a share of the league title with the Hurricane.
Offensively for Miami Trace: Trenton Harris, 1-3, 1 bb, 1 run; Josh Morton, 0-3, 1 bb; Brady Wallace, 2-4, 1 2b, 2 rbi; Mitchell Creamer, 0-2, 1 bb, 1 sac., 1 run; Skylar McDonald, 1-3; Drew Stevens, 0-3; Jacob Batons, 1-3; Coby Hughes, 0-2, roe; Heath Cockerill, 1-3, 1 run.
Offensively for Washington: Caden Cluxton, 0-4; Jarett Patton, 1-3, 1 bb, 1 run; Cole Massie, 1-1, 1 bb, 1 sac., 1 run; Brian Wilson, 0-2, 1 bb; Tim Robinson, 1-3; Aaron Greer, 0-1, 2 bb, 1 rbi; Trevor Mustain, 1-3, 1 rbi; Hayden Hufford, 0-2, hbp; Connor Chrisman, 1-3.
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Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1