MADISON — It’s a classic sports cliche, but the saying, ‘that’s why they play the game’ couldn’t have been more fitting for the Scott baseball team this past week.
The Skyhawks entered Class AA Region 4, Section 3 play with a 14-13 record as the underdogs, facing 23-3 Chapmanville, last year’s state runner-up.
The end result was a two-game series sweep for Scott in dramatic fashion as the Skyhawks eliminated Class AA’s No. 2 ranked team.
“It’s been a pretty exciting week down here in Madison,” said Scott coach Brett Kuhn. “A lot of people looked at this as being a transition year, but our seniors stepped up and we had key contributions from a couple of sophomores and freshmen. We’ve been playing better over the last couple of weeks and it just all came together this week.”
Wednesday’s sectional-clinching win over Chapmanville was wild as the Skyhawks prevailed 15-14 in 10 innings. Scott trailed going into potential final at-bats in the 7th, 9th and 10th.
“Chapmanville opened up the game with three runs in the first and then we scored eight runs in the bottom of the first. It was just a see-saw battle the rest of the night,” Kuhn said. “Going into the bottom of the 7th, we were down by two and scored two to tie. In the 9th and 10th, we were down by one each time. We tied it in the 9th and then two of our seniors came through big for us in the 10th inning to win it.”
With the game tied back up at 14-14, two outs and nobody on in the 10th, it was Scott’s senior center fielder, Andrew Prince, providing a double. Senior first baseman Caden Buckner followed with the walk-off single, scoring Prince and erupting the hometown crowd.
“It was absolute pandemonium,” Kuhn said. “Our crowd was tremendous – they were our 10th man out there. Both sides were packed, Chapmanville brought a tremendous crowd as well. It was electric, I can’t even describe what it was like.”
The Skyhawks set the tone of sectional play with an initial 7-6 win over Chapmanville on Tuesday, creating a stir around the state as Scott also won on its last at-bat. Senior Austin Wheatley threw a complete-game on just 70 pitches in that win.
“Chapmanville had beaten us twice in the regular season (16-6 and 8-2), but we were anxious to see how we matched up when we had a little bit different pitching,” Kuhn said. “The key for us is always how we play defensively.
“We don’t have an overpowering pitching staff, so we have to make the routine plays,” he continued. “Offensively, we swing the bats very well. Over those last two games, we played well enough defensively and then hit the ball like we have all year.”
Kuhn’s son, shortstop Nathan Kuhn, is one of those freshmen standouts for the Skyhawks. He hits out of the lead-off spot and supplied a grand slam on Wednesday. Prince and Buckner have both helped lead Scott at the plate as well, with Buckner collecting six hits in the two games against Chapmanville.
Regional semifinal play this year for Class AA teams is set for Tuesday, May 24. Scott last won a sectional title in 2013, Kuhn’s first year at the helm.
“We won that sectional on a Friday in 2013 and turned around to play Wayne on the following Tuesday. I’m hoping with the extra time in between postseason games, we’ll be able to mentally prepare,” Kuhn said. “Our message to the team is just to keep getting two-steps better and stay the course.”
The Skyhawks are matched up in regional semifinal play with the winner of Wayne, Mingo Central and Tolsia. The No. 5 Pioneers are the favorites to advance into that regional matchup with Scott.
“We’ve played all three teams,” Kuhn said. “If it is Wayne like we expect, they are always going to be tough. They’re well coached, disciplined and they do all of the little things it takes to win games.”
Scott fell to Wayne early in the season, 9-5, and the Skyhawks would likely be the underdogs again. But, then again, that’s why they play the game.