He looked over the top of his glove. His shoulders rose with a deep breath. Looking to his catcher to call for the pitch, he nodded and wound up. As he let the ball go, a hush had befallen the crowd as the scoreboard illuminated a two-strike count behind him.
In what seemed like slow motion, the batter swung his bat at a ball high in the strike zone that would prove to be his demise. The umpire roared back and with a forceful movement, punched the third and final out of the game.
Colonel Richardson pitcher Caleb Johnson, elated following a 1-0 victory over Stephen Decatur, ran to his dugout knowing that he finally attained what he and his team had been working for – a perfect 19-0 record and winners of the Bayside Championship.
“It’s great,” he said. “We put a lot of hours in this sport and it’s definitely paid off. As a team, I don’t think we’ve been any better than what we are right now.”
The star of the night, Johnson notched 12 strikeouts allowing two hits and three walks in his complete game shutout performance. But while 12 strikeouts is an impressive mark, the game would prove to be one of resiliency and levelheadedness – and for Johnson, he had to exhibit just that in his first inning out.
Decatur’s Austin Dundore reached on a bobbled ball in what would normally a routine out. The following batter struck the ball to the shortstop as he tried to turn a 6-4-3 double play – but he wouldn’t. Another mishandled fielding error doomed the Colonels with two men on and no outs.
“I told Caleb we’re going to make those plays, this is nerves,” Colonel Richardson head coach Daniel Mangum said. “These are things that we can overcome.”
And overcome he did. Johnson would go on to strikeout three batters with the bases loaded and got his team out of an early jam. From there, the defensive prowess of both teams would come alive with the highlight coming from Stephen Decatur’s Tristan McDonough making a diving catch at first base to give the Seahawks their second out in the third inning.
While drawing the short straw tonight, Seahawks head coach Rich Ferro said that the game was a learning experience for his team.
“I told the kids, from this loss, there’s no way we couldn’t have gotten better,” he said. “We have to figure out who is going to be able to step up in tough spots.”
For the Seahawks they were put in a tough spot when Colonel Richardson’s Jaret Bennett stole second base. The catcher would overthrow the ball into the outfield grass as Bennett advanced to third. A ball hit to shortstop soon thereafter advanced him home and would prove to be enough for the Colonel’s to secure a championship.
The game was nothing new for the two teams. Last year, Decatur won the game on a timely hit that lofted them to a 3-2 victory and coming back, Mangum says that his team’s victory was won off of sheer will-power.
“This group of seniors, they didn’t want to come back and lose,” he said. “It’s a great feeling and we got to refocus for the playoffs.”
Both Stephen Decatur and Colonel Richardson are top seeds in their conference and will begin their push for a state title on May 11.