FAYETTEVILLE - Almost a week after freshman Kirk Baugh hit a grand slam that essentially sent White Hall to the Class 5A state semifinals, he thought he cost the Bulldogs a state championship.
In the eighth inning he reached third on a bunt that loaded the bases, but got too far off the bag and was doubled up for the second out of the inning.
After Watson Chapel squandered an opportunity in the ninth inning, Baugh had a chance with a runner on first and third and one out in the 10th.
The freshman got his chance at redemption and hit a double to the right-center gap to plate two runners in an extra-inning extravaganza to give White Hall the 4-2 victory over crosstown rival Watson Chapel for the Class 5A title.
“Just getting up there after that bad play at third, I just wanted to win the game for everyone,” Baugh said. “I thought I lost the game honestly. But my teammates picked me up and I went back out there and was just determined to get a hit.”
To say Baugh was determined is an understatement. He felt he owed it to the team.
“When he went up he told me, ‘I am going to win the game coach,’” said White Hall coach Skip Carr, who admitted he does not play many freshmen at the varsity level.
“When he got out at third, that was my fault, I should’ve held him. That’s my bad coaching,” he joked. “I should’ve been playing him earlier instead of holding him back, and once again that’s my fault.”
Watson Chapel (27-7) had a chance for the win in the bottom of the eighth. With runners at first and third and one out, Landen Colson took off for second to try and force a balk. But Justin Dardenne lined out to the shortstop Hunter Hale, who threw the ball to first to double up Colson and end the inning.
“My kids went down fighting, they had their chances and so did (White Hall),” Watson Chapel coach Chad Cope said. “It was a great ball game, but that’s just how it goes. We were trying to run a force balk and it didn’t work out.”
Dardenne said he will be second-guessing that swing for the rest of his life.
“I shouldn’t have swung at it,” he said.
White Hall (18-12) struck first and struck early. Landon Reed, who went 3 for 5 with two runs scored, led off the game with a single and later scored on Clay Cannon’s RBI single. Justin McCarty followed with an RBI double to put White Hall up 2-0.
After giving up three hits in the first inning, Watson Chapel pitcher Zach Bradford settled down and allowed just three more for the next six innings and only walked one batter while striking out six.
“We went with him in the eighth inning. I could tell he was tired and he pitched his guts out,” Cope said.
Watson Chapel scored in the third inning when Colson ran through Cope’s stop sign on Bradford’s RBI single and the Wildcats trailed 2-1.
In the next inning, White Hall starter Tyler Zuber walked two straight batters with two out and one on to load the bases. Wyatt Jones then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
Zuber got Colson to fly out to center, but senior Chris Smith came out to start the fifth inning.
“Tyler didn’t have his best game tonight, so I got Chris ready in the bullpen and he told me he was good,” Carr said. “He was ready and before the game he told me he felt good.”
Smith proceeded to throw six innings of four-hit ball while striking out eight and walking two.
“I was spot on with my fastball all night,” Smith said. “Tyler did such a good job, can’t take anything away from him.”
After both teams botched their chances, Reed led off the 10th with an infield single and then to second on a one-out walk to Cannon. McCarty flied out to center and Reed went to third and then scored on Baugh’s hit.
“Landon has been doing so well for us getting on base to lead-off all year long,” Carr said.
Reed had no doubt about Baugh’s hit either.
“When he hit it, I knew he had a gap shot and all I was worried about was scoring,” he said. “I knew it was going to be the longest inning in the bottom of the 10th. It was longer.”
Reed was later named the MVP of the game.
“I am speechless,” he said. “This definitely isn’t a one-person game.”
Bradford led off the bottom of the 10th win a single, but Watson Chapel could not get a run across as White Hall claimed the ultimate bragging rights in the rivalry.
“It was great for the fans and it was great for White Hall,” Carr said. “Everyone was here and you could hear them. They wanted to bring it home and we did.”