SPRINGHILL – With one out in the seventh inning of Monday’s Class 2A state quarterfinal baseball game, Evangel shortstop Spencer Goodwin had a vision.
Goodwin saw a groundball hit at him, one he fielded cleanly and threw home to move his Eagles one step closer to a state semifinal berth.
Moments later, Goodwin’s premonition came true, as North Webster’s Gunner McEachern shot a one-hopper directly at him.
Goodwin indeed fielded the ball cleanly and threw home for the second out of the final inning of Evangel’s 6-5 victory at Randy McMahen Park.
“Coach (Tim Hulett) called the infield in, and (Austin) McWhiney was on the mound, a good groundball pitcher,” Goodwin said. “Right before he hit the ball, I pictured that exact play, a short hop right at me. It played exactly like it had in my mind.”
Hulett’s decision to bring in McWhiney, who hadn’t pitched in relief this season, worked like so many of Hulett’s moves Monday night.
Two seasons ago, Hulett massaged and managed steady stream of relievers to a state championship. He did it to perfection again Monday, using three relievers to cobble together the final three innings.
Brooks Bryan and McWhiney were the final two used, covering the last eight outs of the game.
“I was ready to go,” said McWhiney, a submariner who got the final two outs of the game. “My adrenaline was flowing. I had to stay down, because when I get up, it flattens out, and they hit it well.”
North Webster (28-9) hit the ball well in the fifth inning, erasing a 5-1 deficit.
However, Evangel relied on its experience in the sixth.
After Joey Usie led off with a single, Goodwin dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Austin Stegall followed with another bunt, one Gray fielded, as he was falling toward the third-base line. Gray’s throw to first sailed behind Stegall, allowing Usie to trot home with the winning run.
“We were a hit or two away,” North Webster coach Chris Brooks said. “The stuff early cost us. Yeah, we caught up at the end, but those early few errors and some awkward plays cost us. You can’t ask anymore than to be a hit away at the end.”
Gray appeared to have the hit that turned what had become a back-and-forth game around, leading off the seventh with a double off Bryan.
However, McWhiney was able to come in and gather his first save thanks to a couple of nice plays made by Goodwin and Shane Miears, who gloved a chopper off the mound and stepped on second base for the final out.
“It would have been nice for us to carry that 5-1 lead all the way through the game,” Hulett said. “They got in the game, and I told the guys, ‘We knew this was going to happen. It’s a game now. Let’s play and score a run.’ They did a great job.”