JACKSONVILLE – It will be a showdown between two Jefferson County teams in the semifinals of the 5A state tournament as White Hall survived a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning en route to a 5-2 win over Harrison on Saturday at Hickingbotham Field.
“We just want to come out and play the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games,” White Hall head coach Skip Carr said. “We aren’t going to worry about what uniform the other team has on.”
Watson Chapel head coach Chad Cope echoed Carr’s words after his team’s win over Nettleton. “We are just focused on us and trying to take it one game at a time,” Carr said.
White Hall (14-11) secured its place in the semifinals thanks to sophomore relief pitcher Cade Canada.
“It is the first time I’ve really been in that kind of situation,” Canada said. “It was definitely nerve-racking.
“But in this game, you got to keep that contained. You got to do the job and get it done.”
After starter Antoine Luster gave up a lead off walk in the bottom of the seventh, Canada came in and walked the next batter to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
“He was a little shaky starting out,” Carr said. “He kept his composure and found the zone and he hit his spots late.
“…They made some good defensive plays behind him and we got out of it.”
Harrison’s Silas Huskey hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that might have scored a couple of runs, but Aaron Johnston was able track it down near the wall and make the catch.
“When A.J. caught that ball, it was definitely a sense of relief,” Canada said.
Canada hit the next batter to load the bases but was able to strike out the next and get the final out on a ground ball to second.
“Anytime you are in a state tournament and facing good teams, you just got to get that final out,” Carr said. “And we were anxious to get it.”
Luster – who reached base four times in Saturday’s game with two walks and a single – earned the win for the Bulldogs after pitching six innings. He allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
“Coach told me before the game, they are a very good hitting team,” Luster said. “I had my change up and slider working to keep them off balance.”
White Hall left 10 runners on base but still has seen a lot of progress when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position.
“The major key has been the bench,” Luster said. “It sounds weird, the bench has pushed us more.
“It makes me excited. It gets me pumped.”
White Hall sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the third, scoring four of its runs and taking a 5-1 lead.
Jase Wilson — who finished 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored — said the team’s attitude in the dugout has been instrumental.
“Our dugout keeps up,” Wilson said.
Dylan Quickel led off the third with a walk and later scored on an RBI single by Justin Archer. Wilson brought in Johnston on an RBI single and a bases loaded walk to Kirk Baugh forced in the fourth run of the inning.
“The kids were up the whole game,” Carr said. “We felt good yesterday with coming back and today with having to hold on for the win.”
Watson Chapel swept the season series against White Hall including a 7-6 win at home.
“It’s Chapel,” Wilson said. “It will be a big game obviously. But we are ready for them.”
The semifinal game is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.
“Going through our rivals to get to the state title, it doesn’t get any bigger than that,” Canada said. “You can’t get any more amped, more pumped about that.”