LINDSIDE — The James Monroe Mavericks baseball team rode a rambling roller coaster of emotions to a sectional championship Wednesday evening, scoring twice on the game’s eighth and final error to defeat Greater Beckley Christian School 7-6 in Lindside.
“I just told them, you’ve got to battle,” said James Monroe assistant coach Timmy Neel. “We don’t hang our heads. If we keep our minds and everything in check, we’re good to go. We’re fine.”
Head coach Garry Stutts said, “When these kids get their confidence, and they get the mindset that they can do it, they’re untouchable, I think. We can go all the way.”
James Monroe (17-8) claimed the championship plaque of Class A, Region 3, Section 1 despite falling behind 3-0 in the second inning and trailing 6-5 going into the bottom of the seventh.
The Mavs’ pitching ran into trouble from the outset. The Crusaders’ second batter, Connor Miller singled and came home on an RBI hit by cleanup batter Reece Patterson. Hunter Crist drew a walk and gave the visitors a 2-0 lead by scoring on a groundout.
Greater Beckley catcher Maverick Harper made it 3-0 in the top of the second inning after drawing a walk on a nine-pitch at-bat. He came home on a James Monroe error.
Cooper Ridgeway scored James Monroe’s first run in the second with the help of two Crusader errors and an RBI groundout by teammate Junior Jones. Both teams plated a single run in the fourth.
The Mavericks (17-8) took the lead for the first time, 5-4, with three runs in the fifth stanza, all of them coming after two outs were recorded. Ridgeway’s hit to shortstop got Matthew Stutts home and Luke Fraley clouted a ball into shallow center to bring the go-ahead runs across the plate.
In the top of the seventh, the Crusaders reclaimed the lead 6-5 when No. 8 batter Kolton Harper drew a bases-loaded walk with one out. That half-inning soon ended on the game’s only double play, a 1-2-3 whiparound.
The James Monroe comeback then began, and it was accomplished without a hit. Owen Jackson reached base on an infield error. Then, saddled with a full count, Ridgeway was hit by a pitch — for the eighth time this season — to put the potential winning run on base.
The Mavericks were down to their last out when the Crusaders gave an intentional walk to Jones. Josiah Hodges then knocked the ball into the left side of the Greater Beckley infield crew, where the game’s final error opened the floodgates.
Jackson and Ridgeway raced home to end the contest and wrap up the sectional.
Ridgeway said, “I was running as hard as I could to third, and I rounded the corner, and I seen (the shortstop’s) back turned toward me, so I just turned on the jets and ran as hard as I could (to) home, and slid and turned out safe.”
Garry Stutts said, “We’ve won eight ballgames this year in the bottom of the seventh or eighth, with some crazy play.”
The pitching win went to the Mavs’ fourth hurler of the evening, Kaden Lowe, who faced two batters.
Patterson, a senior, pitched six innings for Greater Beckley Christian.
Crusaders head coach Drew Walker said, “He has a really good off-speed pitch, so we thought it would maybe keep them off-balance a little bit at the beginning of the game. It did. They started hitting a little bit, so it’s just tough.”
Walker said the Mavericks are “a good hitting team.”
At the plate, Patterson collected two singles and walked twice. He scored one run and drove another in.
The coach said that Patterson is “a big part of what we (did). He’s had an awesome career here. Hopefully, he goes on to play at the next level.”
Miller and Kaden Bowen also had two singles for the Crusaders.
For James Monroe, Hodges contributed three hits, including an RBI double in the fourth.
“One through nine can hit the ball for us,” said Garry Stutts. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in all of them. We just wait for our moment — and they came through. They battled.”
He said about the Mavericks, “They got a confidence builder the other day when they beat Greater Beckley the first time. I said, ‘Guys, you can beat them. Now you know you can beat them.’”
Walker said about the Crusaders’ strategy, “This year, we played up. We played a lot of hard teams, which we did that last year, just to get ready for this. Pretty much, these games are the only ones that matter, we feel like.”
“We got third seed, went to the loser’s bracket,” he said. “It’s just tough. It’s a lot of travel.”
James Monroe advances to the Region 3 tournament in Class A, a best two-out-of-three affair. Stutts said they will play Section 1 champion Charleston Catholic on the road, “probably on Monday.”
At H.E. Comer Jr. Sports Complex
Greater Beckley …….. 210 100 2 — 6 8 5
James Monroe ………. 010 130 2 — 7 8 3
Reece Patterson, Hunter Crist (7) and Maverick Harper. Matthew Stutts, Justin Feamster (4), Carson Coen (6), Kaden Lowe (7) and Cooper Ridgeway.
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