It’s a play that Woodrow Wilson has practiced everyday this season and has rarely had to utilize.
It’s a good thing the Flying Eagles did practice it; it saved their season and led to a 2-1 victory over defending state champion Princeton.
In the top of the sixth inning in Tuesday’s Class AAA Region 3 semifinal, Josh Rakes was on the mound for Beckley with Addison Wood on first and Chris Otey at the plate.
Otey hit a routine grounder to short, but Chris Metrick overthrew first baseman Hunter Halstead, sending the ball into the deep Woodrow Wilson foul territory.
Princeton head coach Josh Wilburn motioned Wood on to third and around to home plate. What happened there probably isn’t what Wilburn expected.
“Magic. That’s what it was,” Woodrow Wilson catcher Daniel Rose said.
Halstead had managed to dig out the ball and throw it home, stopping Wood 5 feet from reaching home plate.
Stuck in a pickle, Wood was finally tagged out by third baseman Brent Osborne for the second out of the inning.
When Osborne turned around, Otey was barreling toward third. It was a simple tag that ended the inning and likely saved the game for the Flying Eagles.
“I kind of smiled when I saw the third base coach waving him home,” Osborne said. “I knew Halstead was going to gun it at the plate. I saw him get stuck. We work on that play every day in practice really. It was a timing thing and it worked out in our favor.”
It was a mistake that Wilburn took upon himself.
“I take that on my shoulders,” he said. “We tried to take advantage of their mistake. It just didn’t turn out in our favor.”
Despite having a solid effort from pitcher Bo Williams (7 hits, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts on 89 pitches), the defending state champions were eliminated by the scrappy Flying Eagle squad.
The two teams looked equal for much of the game. Each team had seven hits. They both stranded runners on third to start the game.
“They had one big inning, and we had one big inning,” Daniel said. “That’s probably what it came down to.”
Princeton’s big inning came in the second.
With two outs and Chris Otey on third, designated hitter Brett Wall hit a shot to center, scoring Otey to take the lead.
The Tigers held the lead until the fourth inning.
Williams was facing the heart of the Flying Eagle lineup. The big and powerful Tiger managed to get Hunter Greco to ground out, but Logan Wriston reached on the very next at-bat. Then Osborne hit a powerful shot, moving Wriston to third.
The normally unshakable Williams was rattled. With Halstead at the plate, Williams danced one past the catcher and into the backstop, bringing home Wriston.
A batter later, Chris Metrick singled to right, bringing home Osborne to give the Eagles the decisive run.
The Flying Eagles got a great performance from pitcher Josh Rakes, who allowed one run on seven hits and struck out two. He went the distance throwing 101 pitches.
“This is the biggest game I’ve pitched in my career at Woodrow,” Rakes said. “We got here last year, same team and just wanted to beat them. We came out hyped up and we were ready.”
The Flying Eagles are only three wins away from a state championship, with Riverside coming into Beckley tonight for a 5 p.m. start.
P: 010 000 0 — 1 7 3
WW: 000 200 x — 2 7 1
P: Bo Williams and Addison Wood, WW: Josh Rakes and Daniel Rose. WP — Rakes. LP — Williams. Hitting — P: Bryson Allen 1-4, Ian Southcott 1-3, Addison Wood 1-3, Chris Otey 1-3 (Run), Josh Perry 1-1 (2B), Nick Janutolo 1-2, Brett Wall 1-3 (RBI). WW: Cole Williams 1-3, Logan Wriston 2-3 (Run), Brent Osborne 1-3 (Run), Hunter Halstead 1-2, Chris Metrick 1-2 (RBI), Jacoby Wells 1-1.