OLIVE HILL – West Carter ace Trevor Callihan was chased from the mound Monday night after tossing his 120th pitch to start the eighth inning of the 62nd District Tournament championship with East Carter.
Trace Tackett took the ball in relief not expecting what he would be called upon to do.
Eight innings was not enough. Neither was nine. Ten almost did not do the trick until the lefty came through in the bottom of the stanza with a bleeder to left that clinched the district crown for the Comets.
Ben Wilburn drew a one-out walk, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored the game-winning run on Tackett’s RBI single for an 8-7, 10-inning win over rival East Carter.
“As soon as I hit it, I was like, oh gosh, I popped it up,” Tackett said. “Then I saw the infield in, and I was like, that’s dropping, and I started freaking out. I even busted my helmet.”
Comets skipper Matt Clark had a much better read on the ball than Tackett and knew his team was a champion on contact.
“As soon as I seen it, I knew it was down,” Clark said. “I told Ben to go with their infield in, I knew their outfield had to be at normal depth … there was no chance. As soon as it came off, I knew it was over.”
West Carter clinched its first title since 2017 and avenged a loss to the Raiders in last year’s title game in Grayson.
“This is the best feeling because these kids have worked hard all year,” Clark said. “Going back to last year, we had the No. 1 seed and let one get away from us. To be able to win it at the end like that, it was unbelievable.”
East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer said there was no hesitation in pulling his infield in with one out in the 10th simply due to the speed Wilburn possesses.
“The Wilburn kid on third has really good speed and if we are back and they hit a ground ball, he scores and game over,” Shearer said. “We had to come in right there.”
Shearer turned to Trey Scott after Noah Caudill walked his second consecutive batter in the inning, looking for a big out from the senior.
“I went to Trey right there because Noah was tired and was laboring,” Shearer said. “(Noah) gave us some great innings, but he was getting tired and the only strikeout guy I had left was Trey.”
But the game had several ebbs and flows prior to the game-winning moment, including a big call that went against the Raiders in the top of the final stanza.
With two outs, Max Shelton worked a walk from the 9-hole to roll the lineup back to the top of the order. Donovan Damron followed with a single to center, setting up Scott at the plate. Scott, who was hit by the pitch, was ruled to have leaned into the pitch as he turned his body away from the ball which struck him in the leg. Rather than loading the bases for Trevor Cline, Scott rolled into an inning-ending groundout at second.
“After that happened, I was like, the middle of our order is coming up and we’ve got to end this,” Tackett said. “I couldn’t go another inning.”
Clark said Tackett was huge for his squad down the stretch.
“He came in and he’s such a leader for us,” Clark said. “He came in and gave us everything he had. He threw strikes and kept us in it and the defense made some plays behind him. We kept getting close to scratching a couple across but never could get it. We finally broke through there in the end.”
Tackett finished the night 4 for 6 at the dish with his lone RBI being the game winner.
West Carter dented the scoreboard with three in the third after Ethan Adkins banged a two-run double off the fence in right center for a 3-0 lead. But the Raiders responded in the fourth behind a two-run shot by Caden McDavid on his first pitch in his second atbat.
The Comets took advantage of three Raiders errors in the fourth to open a 5-2 lead as Callihan made quick work of the visitors in the fifth.
Batting only .097 entering the night, Tussey laced a two-RBI triple off the wall in right that tied the game at 5-5. Shelton followed with an RBI double to left as the Raiders grabbed their first lead of the night, 6-5.
The bottom half of the Raiders’ order collected all but three of their nine hits with the top four in the lineup going a collective 2 for 19 at the plate.
West answered with a run in the sixth behind another two out East Carter error that moved Wilburn into scoring position. One swing later, Sam Jones drove Wilburn home for a 6-6 tie.
McDavid pushed the Raiders ahead in the eighth behind a single and later scored on a wild pitch but East failed to push across any more as they left two in scoring position with only one out.
West appeared to have been retired in order to end the game until another East Carter two-out error allowed the frame to continue, with back to back Comets’ singles knotting the game at 7-7.