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Region I Baseball: As closer, Carroll gets Foxes into states
BY STEVE DeSHAZO
COURTLAND—Damian Carroll’s words were nearly as persuasive as his arm and bat.
And because of all three—and another scrappy performance by his King George teammates—the Foxes are headed for the Group AA state baseball tournament.
After smacking two home runs in Thursday’s Region I semifinal game at Southampton, Carroll persuaded coach Thad Reviello to let him pitch the seventh inning as the Foxes clung to a one-run lead. Reviello gave in, and Carroll retired the Indians in order to preserve King George’s hard-fought 7–6 victory.
It helped that Carroll got an extra day of rest after his 114-pitch effort in Monday’s quarterfinal victory over Warhill. Wednesday morning’s rain postponed the semifinal a day, giving Carroll 24 more hours to recover.
“I probably wouldn’t have done it yesterday,” Reviello said of using his ace as a closer. “But we talked today, and he said his arm felt good And it was just one inning—with a chance to go to state.”
Carroll had enough to strike out two of the three batters he faced, boosting the Foxes (20–3) into today’s 4:30 p.m. Region I final at Grafton.
“I just said, ‘Coach, if you need me, I’ve got you,’’’ Carroll said. “I was ready yesterday. Now I’m ready for Friday.”
For a while, it looked as if the Foxes wouldn’t need Carroll to pitch Thursday. He led off the game with a towering home run into the cornfield well past the 305-foot sign in left field, then smashed a two-run homer in the fourth, when King George scored four times to take a 6–2 lead.
But the Foxes left five runners on base in the first two innings, and Southampton (15–4) kept clawing back.
The Indians got a two-run homer from Hayden Spaulding in the bottom of the fourth off Foxes starter Dustin Phillips and scored single runs off reliever Lex Estes in the fifth and sixth. But Estes retired Josh Riddick on a pop-up with runners on second and third to end the sixth, and Carroll did the rest.
“We’ve been fighting all year,” said third baseman Zak Kegley, who had three hits for the Foxes. “We had to do it in the [Battlefield] District championship [against Eastern View], and we had to do it Monday. That’s been the nature of this year.”
Carroll’s biggest contributions have come on the mound this year, as evidenced by the scores of pro scouts who have timed his every pitch. But on Thursday, he made a sparkling running catch in left field and went 3 for 3 at the plate.
“From talking to other coaches, we thought his only weak spot was in and at the hands,” Southampton coach Wes Griffith said. “We didn’t hit our spots, and he was able to extend on them.”
Now, the Foxes’ season will extend into next week. A banner will be at stake in Friday’s region final, but both teams are assured of state tournament berths. Reviello said he’ll again use an “all hands on deck” pitching approach, but this is heady stuff for a program that hasn’t enjoyed such success in a generation.
“This is uncharted territory,” Reviello said, “but we’re going with it. This is a focused group, but they’re loose, and they’re enjoying it.”
R H E
King George 1104 010 7 9 2
Southampton 0112 110 6 9 3
Dustin Phillips, LEX ESTES (4), Damian Carroll (7) and Tyler Ruslow. Brandon Phillips, HUNTER PECK (3), Dylan Hasty (4), Josh Riddick (7) and Cecil Lowe.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443