East Surry’s Andrew Hunter slapped the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give coach Barry Hall’s Cardinals the 2010 tournament title in a 6-5 win over Bishop McGuinness.
The entire bottom half of the eighth inning was a wild one for East Surry.
Ryan Johnson started off the rally with a pinch hit single in place of Jonah Easter by beating out a throw to first base. Easter then re-entered the game to run for Johnson, and when Kyle Shinault tried to sacrifice bunt Easter into scoring position, the Bishop McGuinness catcher overthrew his second basemen in an attempt to cut off the lead runner.
As the ball trickled into the outfield, Easter hesitated for a moment, then broke for third.
The throw from center field was miles ahead of the Cardinal senior, but when Easter slid into the bag, his foot knocked the ball out of the Bishop players glove and he was safe, a twist of fate which set up Hunter’s base hit in East’s next at-bat.
“That’s what championship games are supposed to be about,” Hall said afterwards. “We’ve been in the championship game now five out of the last six years and we’ve come up short so these kids deserve it.”
While everything was all smiles for the Cardinals at the end of the night, earlier in the evening things looked bleak.
Bishop came out swinging and put up four quick runs on starter Evan Smith.
Down 4-1 in the bottom of the second, East had the bases loaded with one out but couldn’t catch a break, as Shinault ripped a line drive only to have it head directly to the Villains shortstop, who easily made the double play to end the rally.
Hall opted to replace Smith with sophomore Jordan Miller, who came on and shifted the tide of the game.
Miller shut down Bishop in his first inning on the mound, and when his turn came up at the plate in the bottom of the third, everything changed.
East again put men on base and Zac Chilton knocked an RBI single to make it 4-2 Bishop.
Miller followed and with two-on he hit a bomb to deep left center for a three-run homerun and a 5-4 Cardinals lead.
That score remained until the top of the sixth, when Bishop put a runner on third base with two outs and managed a roller up the middle just out of reach of shortstop Austin Tilley to tie the game 5-5.
Blake Gilley came on for Miller to pitch the eighth inning and shut down the meat of the Bishop lineup to set up the win.
“Blake Gilley hasn’t thrown in a month and we put him out here in front of all these people against some of their better hitters and he just went out and competed,” Hall said. “Jordan Miller gave us a chance and all of our players contributed tonight. It was a good team effort. This group is special but they’ve got a chance if they keep playing.”
The Cardinals have been on a roll for the past two months, losing just one game during that time. Hall said he was happy with the way his team has been playing.
“These young men aren’t boys anymore,” he said. “In march we weren’t a very good ball club but they’ve worked their butts off. They come to practice every day, we’ve won 18 out of 19 now and they just don’t give up.”
“I think (the turning point was) when Jordan came in and kept it close and gave us a chance and we went ahead,” Hall continued. “Bishop isn’t going to quit, they never quit. We mirror each other. Coach Hunt does a great job, their players are top notch people, win, lose or draw they always shake hands and their parents are nice. We have a good relationship with Bishop and we always play one-run games, so we enjoy playing each other.”
Miller was named the tournament Most Outstanding Player and finished the night 2-for-3 with a run, a homerun and three RBIs, pitched five innings, gave up three hits, one unearned run, struck out two and walked none.
Andrew Hunter was 2-for-3 with a run, the game-winning RBI and one stolen base, while Zac Chilton was 1-for-3 with a run and two RBIs.
Lathan Hunter, Jonah Easter, and Chilton joined Miller on the all-tournament team. Surry Central’s Austin Stevens also was named to the team.
East Surry is now 22-4 and could face Mount Airy in the first round of the state playoffs next week.
East Surry 6, Bishop McGuinness 5 (8 Innings)
BM — 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 5 9 3
ES — 1 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 — 6 7 3
WP: Blake Gilley
2B — ES: Zac Chilton; BM — Will Shaw, Chris Kane; HR: ES — Jordan Miller