By Dan Wright
CAMPBELL COUNTY 3, NICHOLAS COUNTY 2 – The Camels’ Region 10 quarterfinal win was full of rarely, if ever, seen plays, and it just proved to emphasize head coach Stephen Schweitzer’s year-long message to his team.
“I’ve been telling these guys all along, this is a unicorn season,” said Schweitzer. “They asked, what do you mean by unicorn season? I said, they say 20-win seasons exist, and they say unicorns exist. We’ve got 18 wins now, we’ve got two more to get to 20. Regional finals? They supposedly exist, but I haven’t seen one of those either. We’re hunting for a unicorn somewhere around here. That’s kind of the joke over here, that we’re going to find that unicorn.”
The Camels’ most unusual effort toward reaching 20 wins for the first time over a decade and first regional championship since 1989 began in the top of the third inning, when sophomore right fielder Cameron Edwards, wearing the rarely worn uniform number of 97, threw out Jacob Wiggins at first base on a ground ball.
In the top of the sixth inning shortstop Tyler Walsh added another unusual play, leaping over third baseman Joe Kremer to tag out Bluejackets starting pitcher J. D. Wagoner at third base
and preserve a 2-2 lead.
“We had the infield in, so we were going to try to hold the runner there,” said Walsh. “I got the ball and just saw (Wagoner) break and I took off running at him. I saw Joe sitting there at third. It probably would have been easier there to flip it. I saw him there and I just tried to jump and tag him.”
“That was incredible,” said Schweitzer. “When he jumped over Joe, lands on the guy to tag him and takes out the coach as well. It was an incredible play and it was just like – we’re winning this game right now.”
The Camels couldn’t immediately claim the win, failing to capitalize on a bases loaded situation in the bottom of sixth inning, but capped off the unusual game by winning in their next at bat on junior left fielder Alex Wood’s foul out to first baseman Jacob Wiggins.
Center fielder Paul Griffis led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third with Wood at the plate. On a 2-2 count, Wood flared a pop up between first base and the fence along the first base line that Wiggins chased after and caught. With Wiggins back to him, Griffis took off for home and slid under the tag of junior catcher Cameron Fryman for the game-winning run.
“Coach gave me the read decision and he was disagreeing with it the whole time. I had already committed to it so I had to go and go hard,” said Griffis, later adding, “I saw that he was running backwards and that he would have to set his feet and throw, and he’s a first baseman and I’ve heard first baseman don’t have good arms. That’s what my coaches have told me before.”
“You know, he tags up on a ball that goes 95 feet and scores,” said Schweitzer, who was coaching third at the time. “That’s incredible. That’s gutsy. That’s actually not even gutsy, it’s borderline stupid.”
It was also the third run Campbell County scored without the benefit of a hit, while the Camels failed to score in any of the four innings in which they did get a hit.
Nicholas County struck first for a run in the third inning when senior left fielder Austin Allison singled up the middle to score a run off senior starting pitcher Joe Rawe.
An error, a ground out, and two wild pitches brought Wagoner around with a second run for the Bluejackets and prompted Schweitzer to bring in senior reliever Andrew Perrin.
“Perrin’s been my number one reliever all year,” said Schweitzer. “He’s been lights out and he’s pitched some incredible games out of the bullpen. He’s only started one game and he goes out there and gives it all he’s got. He’s a senior and a very smart kid and I trust in the game he’s going to make the right decisions.”
Perrin ended the fourth by getting a fielder’s choice and worked 3-1/3 scoreless innings to earn his fourth win of the season.
After hitting into outs to strand runners in the first three innings, Campbell County took advantage of five walks in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the score at two.
“We couldn’t have anything drop,” said Griffis. “Everything was going their way. We had to keep going at it keep hitting the ball and get around and score. We were just more patient, looking at strikes, looking to drive the ball and getting quality at bats.”
Nicholas County left-handed starter J. D. Wagoner held the Camels to five hits and struck out seven while throwing over 100 pitches, but it was the walks that eventually undid him.
His sixth walk loaded the bases with two out in the sixth, but he was able to strike out Walsh to escape that jam.
He was not as fortunate with his seventh walk, which put Griffis on and led to him scoring on Wood’s foul pop to first.
“I tell them all the time we’re going to be aggressive on the base paths, and if you want to do, do it,” said Schweitzer. If you’re going to do it, go hard. Don’t slow down, just get after it and that’s what he did. He put his head down and he beat the throw.”
The Camels will continue their charge towards a regional title in today’s second semifinals against Bourbon County, scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The Colonels defeated Mason County, 7-1, in the last game of the day Monday.
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