Charleston – George Washington head coach Mike Davis admitted that back in mid-April, he would have never imagined his team playing in the state baseball tournament.
Now the Patriots sit seven innings away from hoisting the state championship trophy.
Friday evening, No. 4 seed George Washington took advantage of a late opportunity to score the go-ahead run for a 5-4 win over No. 1 seed Jefferson at Appalachian Power Park.
“The type of team that you saw today was more of what we expected to have this year. Good pitching and good defense,” George Washington head coach Mike Davis said. “Cam battled and he didn’t quite have a good feel out there. Then to have Isaac McCallister to bring in is incredible. What can you say about him? That was just a gutsy performance.”
McCallister had been stellar thus far in postseason play and Davis had to call his number a little early after starter Cameron Reed hit a rough patch in the second and third inning.
“I knew if I had insurance behind my back, and my team does a very good job of that, I can get us the pitches. They got me all the insurance I needed and we came out with a (win),” McCallister said.
The senior righty came on to pitch in the third inning with no outs for after a deep solo blast from Griffin Horowicz gave the Cougars a 3-1 lead.
McCallister steadied the ship on the defensive side and his teammates responded in their next at-bat.
A pair of singles by sophomores Eli Dawson and Abe Fenwick proceeded a sacrifice bunt by Joseph Lively to set the table. Sophomore Bryson Hoffman then stepped in with two outs and drilled a double to score both runs and even the game.
The Patriots took the lead in the next inning on a perfectly executed hit-and-run from Dawson.
“Our sophomores were tremendous today. We wouldn’t be in this position without them. In the fourth inning all three of them came through with big hits,” Davis said. “They have been picked up all year by these older guys. That is the old tip of the cap to these older guys for believing in them and helping their growth along the way.”
Jefferson tied the game in the sixth on a single from Horowicz and had George Washington in a serious bind with the bases loaded with two outs.
Making matters worse, McCallister went 2-0 to the batter.
Without hesitation the senior went to his curveball for a much needed strike and with the count 3-2, McCallister went back to his best pitch for a ground ball out.
“I am confident enough. I know I can throw that pitch whenever I want. Who is expecting a 3-2 curveball with the bases loaded?” McCallister said.
“I said to my assistant coach, he wants to go curveball right here,” Davis said. “When he came in, I won’t repeat (exactly) what he said, but he was like that was the biggest 3-2 curveball I have ever thrown in my life.”
A dropped fly ball in the seventh inning proved to be the difference in the game when the error gave GW runners at the corners with one away. Lively lifted a fly ball deep to center to score the eventual winning run, but the excitement was not exactly over.
Jefferson got a runner aboard on hit batsman and immediately attempted to bunt the runner over to second.
McCallister rocketed off the mound and fired the ball to second where the relay was in time to first for the double play.
After a single, McCallister sealed the win with a strikeout.
“This team bends but they don’t break. The amount of grit, resiliency and toughness they have developed over the course of the season, I am so proud of them. They are battlers,” Davis said. “We were able to capitalize on some momentum there at the end. Getting that double play off the bunt was huge.”
George Washington will now meet the winner of No. 2 Hurricane and No. 3 Bridgeport Saturday for the AAA state championship.
“My emotions can’t be described. This just a surreal feeling,” McCallister said. “I have dreamed of this every since I came in as a freshman. It’s here now and we have just one more game to play.”