JACKSONVILLE — The Watson Chapel baseball team defeated Sylvan Hills 10-3 in the first round of the 5A state tournament at Shireman Field on Friday despite losing senior catcher Landen Colson in the second inning.
“Your team can do one of two things,” Chapel head coach Chad Cope said. “You can either mope around and look for an excuse, or you can find a way to play for him.”
Sophomore Bernard Black replaced Colson in the lineup and finished the day 2 for 4 including a double and two runs scored.
“Once I got that chance, I knew I had to step up and fill the big place of Landen,” Black said. “Landen is the heart of the team.
“He is the captain. I just knew I had to step up and be a leader.”
Black led off the third inning with a double and later scored on an RBI single by Jacob Owen. It gave Chapel (19-5) a 10-0 lead.
After Black hit his double, Cope turned to the bench and said, “Nobody say anything to Bernard. Don’t even wake him up.”
Black, who didn’t even think he would play Friday, said, “He didn’t want anybody to say anything to get my head all rattled.
“He wanted me to stick to my plan at the plate.”
Black also scored a run in the second inning.
Chapel sent 13 batters to the plate in the second — scoring eight of their runs — and taking a 9-0 lead.
Chris Williams led off the inning with a walk, and Dalton Barker and Josh Dardenne both walked with one out to load the bases.
Jaylen Jackson singled home a run to give Chapel a 2-0 lead and after an error by Sylvan Hills’ pitcher, which allowed Black to reach, Chapel led 3-0 with the bases still loaded.
Owen — who finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs — doubled down the right-field line to plate two more runs for the Wildcats. Justin Pierce singled home a pair of runs and Williams followed with his second walk of the inning. He later scored on an error to cap off the inning.
“I firmly believe hitting is contagious,” Pierce said. “That was a big inning for us right there that helped us.
“It was a big confidence booster.”
Pierce was the winning pitcher, tossing a complete game for the Wildcats and allowing just three runs on two hits. He also struck out four and walked four.
The Bears scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning.
“I struggled finding it that one inning,” Pierce said. “I just let up and that was a result of them scoring runs.
“We preach defense and I just did my best to let my defense back me up.”
In the fourth, MacKenzie Seats led off with a walk and after one out, moved to second on an error at third. A double by Blake Maddox scored two runs and back-to-back walks forced in a third run.
“Good pitchers, they might struggle a little bit, but they aren’t going to give up a whole lot,” Cope said.
Pierce gave up a lead off hit in the seventh inning, but got the next three outs pretty easily to finish the game.
“Our defense is No. 1 priority,” Pierce said. “Defense wins ballgames and they did a great job backing me up (Friday).”
Dardenne led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run to give Chapel a quick 1-0 lead. He finished 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI.
Marcus Long was tagged with the loss for Sylvan Hills after lasting just 1 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs (all earned) on one hit with five walks and one strikeout.
“Our kids did a good job of coming out ready to play,” Cope said.
Watson Chapel will face Nettleton, which defeated Greenbrier, 3-1, in the second round at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.