OAKWOOD – With the game on the line, one of Johnson’s smallest players came up big.
After helping his team rally from a seven-run deficit, Adam White stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Two quick strikes put White in an early hole, but with his team down to its final strike, he lined a single to center field to score two runs to cap a thrilling 9-8 come-from-behind win against West Hall on Friday in Oakwood.
“I was just trying to put it in play and do my job,” said White, who broke out of a slump with two hits and three RBIs in the seventh inning. “I couldn’t tell you what happened, I guess something just clicked.”
Trailing 8-1 to start the seventh inning, White started the rally with an RBI single that scored Jordan Green. A Chris White single plated Taylor Whitemire, and just like that, the Knights (8-7, 7-6 Region 8-AAA) had scored two runs and had two runners still on base with no outs.
“I just told the kids that we needed to get runners on base,” Johnson coach Tony Wilson said. “No one was really thinking comeback, we just wanted to give ourselves a chance.”
The Knights’ chances improved following a two-run single by Trae Wilson that cut the deficit to 8-5. The next batter A.J. Benefield, was hit by a pitch that sent the tying run to the plate in Logan Pethel, who hit an RBI double to put the Knights within two.
“We’ve been doing good at coming back,” Adam White said. “We all played as a team tonight and that’s what kept us in it.”
Brandon Adams cut the West Hall (5-9, 3-9) lead to one run, and, following an intentional walk and strikeout, White came through with the game-winning hit.
“That was somewhat of a surprise,” Johnson’s coach said. “He’s been struggling of late, but he’s worked hard in practice and deserved to be in that moment.
“I’m glad we had him in the lineup.”
While the Knights were celebrating the win, West Hall lamented a heartbreaking loss to its crosstown rivals.
“Johnson’s got our number,” West Hall coach Pete Allen said. “They’re a good ball team and they made the plays. We threw everything at them.”
For six innings, the one guy throwing at them was nearly unhitable.
Chandler Newton had eight strikeouts, surrendered only three hits and one unearned run, but didn’t pitch the seventh inning because he had already thrown 109 pitches.
For Allen, that was enough for the 15-year-old freshman southpaw.
“Chandler talked about finishing,” Allen said. “But that was too many pitches for a 15-year-old.”
Newton struggled early, allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the second. He got into a jam later in the inning, but escaped with no further damage thanks to a nice tag covering home after a wild pitch.
West Hall answered in the top of the fourth with an RBI double from Zach English. Newton was involved with another wild pitch later in the inning, this time turning a dropped strike three into another run for the Spartans.
T.J. Williams made the Knights pay for the miscue by smacking a two-run single to center field that scored Taylor Waggoner and Jake Shirley and gave West Hall a 4-1 lead.
Newton got out of another jam in the bottom of the third by recording an inning-ending strikeout with runners on second and third. Trae Wilson started the two-out rally with a single, but was unable to score on A.J. Benefield’s double.
The Spartans blew the game open in the fifth after a single by Shirley, a walk to Cody Simpson, and two straight hits by Newton and Williams that plated two more runs. Ethan Stewart’s one-out single through a drawn in infield scored two more and gave West Hall a commanding 8-1 lead.
But those runs weren’t enough, and the Spartans left the field Friday knowing they let one get away.
“Anytime you lose to your crosstown rivals, it’s tough,” Allen said. “The good thing is, we don’t have long to dwell on it because we play at 2 p.m. (today against Walnut Grove).”
Taylor Simpson led West Hall by going 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored, while Jake Shirley had three hits, two stolen bases and two runs scored.
Johnson, which was coming off a blowout loss to North Hall, hosts Franklin County at 5:55 p.m. Monday.