The Warriors dropped an 8-7 extra-inning decision to homestanding Virginia High in semifinal play of the VHSL Region 2D tournament Wednesday night, but not before they amazed the congregation at DeVault Stadium.
Virginia High led 6-0 after one inning and then held on for its playoff life.
“Hats off to Wise Central,” emotionally spent VHS veteran coach Mark Daniels said. "Most teams would have laid down after giving up six in the first inning. We were very fortunate to win that ball game.”
The Bearcats won it in the bottom of the ninth when freshman Jean Mulumba blasted a double well over the head of Central center fielder Tyler Vanover, scoring Jared Moulse with the difference maker.
Mulumba's heroics came on the first pitch from Ben Brickey after the freshman righthander had relieved Bryson Collins, who reached his 115-pitch limit when he walked Moulse.
“It's unfortunate that Collins ran out of pitches,” said Wise Central coach Brian Mills. "He shut the door on them and did a really great job. They squared one up on Ben, but sometimes it's a game of inches.”
Mulumba finished with three of Virginia High’s eight hits, while Jamie Lathrop had two.
The Bearcats, who qualified for the state tournament while earning a spot in tonight's region final, caught fire right away against Wise starter Zach James.
VHS (16-7) collected five base hits off James, who was pulled after the first frame. Justin Lewis and Lathrop both had RBI singles, but the big blow was a three-run home run off the bat of Tyler Anderson.
Wise (10-12) began chipping away at Bearcat starter Jordan Dixon in the second inning with an RBI-single by Keegan Jones.
The Warriors then scored three times in the third on the strength of run-scoring singles from Tyler Muncy and Landon Elkins.
An RBI-double by Lathrop gave the Bearcats a 7-4 lead, but the Warriors kept coming. A two-run single from Collins made it 7-6 after four.
The Warriors tied it in the sixth when J.P. Stallard led off with a double, followed by an RBI-single from Muncy.
Muncy finished with three of Central’s 11 hits, Stallard and James two apiece.
VHS righthander Michael Bradley relieved Dixon to start the sixth and immediately gave up the equalizer, but the sophomore settled in and got the win.
Wise Central collected only one hit off Bradley in his three innings of work.
The heartbreaking defeat did nothing to dampen the spirit of Mills, who is giving up the Warrior reigns after 10 years as a prep head coach.
“I'm really not sad about it (the loss), I'm really not,” Mills said. "To be down 6-0 and come back against a program like that says so much about these kids.
“And that's what I told them afterward, that I hope they take this as a life lesson. You may be down with an illness or sickness or whatever, but you realize that you can always come back in life. I'm really proud of them tonight.”
Tazewell 4, John Battle 2 (8 innings)
Braden Powers bounced a two-run single through the infield in the top of the eighth inning to lift Tazewell to a 4-2 win over John Battle in Wednesday night's second Region 2D baseball semifinal at DeVault Stadium.
The rally began when Sydney Willis and Trevor Wimmer drew no-out walks off reliever Aaron Arnold, who had just replaced Battle starter Landon Moore due to the VHSL pitch-limit rule.
The win qualified the Bulldogs (16-7) for the state 2A tournament along with Southwest District rival Virginia High, who they'll meet in Thursday night's region final.
Battle, which finished with a 17-7 record, tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI-single off the bat of Jake Mumpower in the bottom of the seventh.
Down 1-0, Tazewell scored twice in the third on an RBI-single from Jamir Blevins and an RBI-double by Willis.
Austin Parker picked up the win after relieving Willis, who spent his 115-pitch allocation at two outs in the seventh. Willis, a 6-foot-4 lefthander, allowed just four hits and struck out 11 batters in his 6 2/3 innings of work.
Moore, another southpaw, worked seven strong innings for Battle and fanned 13.