Eagles on top: RMA wins Game 3 over Faith Christian for first baseball state championship
By PATRICK MASON
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Before the final game of the season began, Rocky Mount Academy baseball coach Cameron Ramsey envisioned himself having to get creative with what was left of his team’s available pitching arms.
It turns out that the puzzle came together without much issue.
Jacob Braddy pitched six strong innings and kept Faith Christian away from a big inning in a 6-3 victory on Saturday over the Patriots in Game 3 of the NCISAA 2-A state championship series.
“It was a lot harder than when I’ve pitched before,” Braddy said. “They can hit. I just had to keep it low and most of the time outside. When I kept it low and when they didn’t get hits, it gave me more confidence which let me drive on until about the sixth when my arm was getting tired.”
The Patriots won Game 2, 11-6, to send the best-of-three series the distance. And it was in that final game where the Eagles secured their first state baseball title in school history.
“We knew if we got to Game 3 everyone would be low on arms,” Ramsey said. “We had Braddy going and we were excited about that. We just told him to go up and compete, get whatever you can get us, then we’ll throw the house at them with whatever we have left.”
The only part of the ‘house’ that was needed was bringing back Isaiah Thomas to pitch the bottom of the seventh. Thomas took the loss in Game 2, but was able to slither out of the Patriots’ final push to nail down the win.
FCS had loaded the bases with one out, but one run was all it could manage. Landon Lewis made the final out when he hit a line drive that RMA first baseman Woodall Rose ranged to his right to snag.
Rose galloped around the infield. The celebration was on.
“Getting that last out and having that dog pile with your buddies,” Thomas said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”
RMA scored two runs in the top of the first, a lead which FCS cut to 2-1 in the bottom of the second on an Andrew Lewis suicide squeeze bunt play. But the Eagles, however, extended their lead by adding four more runs over the next two innings, including one in the third on a Braddy solo home run.
“I just swung as hard as I could and it finally went out,” he said of his team-leading third home run of the season.
FCS was playing for its third consecutive 2-A state title, having won the previous two. But the Patriots couldn’t make it a third despite their best efforts. Senior Garrett Pannell made an impact on the entire series, pitching in all three games while having a terrific series at the plate.
He had a pair of doubles on Saturday, and led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and came around to score the lone Patriots run in the inning. Pannell also snuffed out an Eagles comeback bid in Game 2, when he came on in relief of starter Chase Johnson to strikeout out the final two batters in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was exhausting,” Pannell said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love playing for these guys.”
RMA had won Friday’s Game 1 by throwing out the would-be tying run at the plate in the seventh, and had the advantage heading into Saturday. But FCS didn’t panic.
The Patriots didn’t panic when RMA scored four runs in the first to start Game 2, and didn’t panic when Eagles center fielder Ethan Davis robbed two would-be home runs from the Patriots in the second.
“We knew that we would play back-to-back today,” Pannell said.
And they did. The moment was never too big for the Patriots, said Ramsey.
“We talked with the guys (Friday night) about how Faith had been there before and then we saw that in their play today,” Ramsey said. “We came out flat in (Game 2). We got tight and they stayed even-keeled, never got too high or too low.”
By Game 3, RMA was right again, and never trailed in the decisive win.
“We thought about that a lot, about how we do not want to be the team that lets them go back-to-back-to-back, so we had to stop them. That definitely hits right here,” said Thomas, tapping his heart. “It’s the first one for us in our school’s history, so we had to make it count. This is how we wanted to go out.”