Wildcats break through late

JACKSONVILLE — Watson Chapel scored four runs over the course of the fifth and sixth innings to make up for some early struggles in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Nettleton in the quarterfinals of the 5A state tournament at Hickingbotham Field.

“The kid was just throwing it well,” Chapel head coach Chad Cope said. “There just wasn’t much we could do about it.

“He just did a good job of pitching.”

Nettleton sophomore Braden Camp gave up just one hit through the first four innings. But in the fifth, Chapel tallied four hits off the Raider — scoring two runs — but leaving the bases loaded.

It gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.

“It means a lot,” senior Kirel Young said of the quarterfinal win. “It will help us through the playoffs.

“We needed that win.”

Young scored two of Chapel’s four runs and finished 1 for 1 with a double, a RBI and two walks.

“I just knew I had to step up,” Young said. “It is about time I came through for my team.

“They pick me up, so it was my turn to pick them up.”

Chapel (20-5) also left the bases loaded in the second inning after three straight walks with two outs. The Wildcats left nine runners on base in the game.

“In the third inning, I saw (Camp) start to lose it a little bit,” Cope said. “I knew if we could get some guys on base, we could so something.”

Chapel added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth — chasing Camp in the process.

Justin Pierce led off the inning with a walk and moved to third after a pair of passed balls. With one out, Young reached on a walk.

With runners on the corners, Cope called for a squeeze play and Dalton Barker laid down a near perfect bunt down the right side. Pierce scored on the play and it gave the Wildcats the two-run cushion.

“Coming up with that safety squeeze,” Cope said. “It was a gamble at first and third, but I knew we had the speed at both bases.

“Dalton did a great job of executing.”

Josh Dardenne — who finished the game 2 for 3 with an RBI — was hit-by-a-pitch to load the bases for the Wildcats. An RBI single by Jaylen Jackson plated Young and it chased Camp from the game.

“Early on, we swung at some stuff and (Camp) was in a rhythm,” Cope said. “So we started stepping out (of the box) and we did a better job.”

Camp took the loss for Nettleton after 5 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed four runs (all earned) on seven hits with five walks and seven strikeouts.

Dardenne pitched a complete game in the win for the Wildcats. He allowed just one earned run, scattering nine hits with nine strikeouts and three walks.

“I wasn’t sure if he was going to play today,” Cope said. “He fell (Friday) and jammed his shoulder.

“…But that’s a senior and a three-year starter. He’s going to go play at the next level somewhere.”

Cope said he didn’t make the decision on whether or not to start Dardenne until almost game time.

“I just fought through it and worked out the soreness,” Dardenne said. “Had to trust the Lord to help me out through the game.”

Nettleton (16-14) scored its only run in the first inning on an RBI single by Jordan Voher. Dardenne escaped a bases loaded jam in the second as the Raiders left nine runners on base.

“I don’t think there is any pressure (on us),” Dardenne said. “We are just trying to make it to the state championship if we can.”

Watson Chapel will face White Hall in the 5A semifinals on Monday at 2:30 p.m.