Tyler Consolidated’s Carson Gorby slides safely into home plate past a tag from Williamstown wide receiver Cruz Islay in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Division Final.
WILLIAMSTOWN – Mired in survival mode, Williamstown turned to a cold bat from the bench and their third individual out of the designated batting slot.
Down 0-2 in the count, Yellowjacket freshman TJ Thomas sent an offering from Tyler Consolidated reliever Hayden Brown deep in the ballpark into center field for a two-run double. to clinch the Class A, Region I, Section 2 championship. The clear-cut 6-5 win sends Williamstown (24-4) into next Monday’s best-of-three Region I format against Madonna.
“When TJ comes in, he usually swings the bat hard – he matches pitchers like a Hayden Brown,” Williamstown coach Levi Maxwell said. “We told him at the start of the season that he will have to do a great job in big situations. I told him when he was on deck, this is your big situation.
“He did what he was supposed to do.”
The game had many ebbs and flows, especially in the last three sets which saw four lead changes.
“In the end, we executed like we had to and it worked,” Maxwell continued. “It will take me a minute to catch my breath. This game here was an emotional rollercoaster.
The resilience that has followed Tyler Consolidated throughout the season showed in the top of the seventh inning and the Silver Knights trailed 4-3. After a combination of Williamstown pitchers fired three bases on balls to load the bases with the one out, Brown stepped up to the plate and lifted a fly ball to middle left field. The left fielder’s throw to shortstop at home plate beat Owen Westbrook from third base, but the ball was dropped when Westbrook made contact with Yellowjacket catcher Cruz Isaly.
Instead of a late double play for Williamstown, TCHS had forced a 5-5 tie.
Reliever Parker Schramm then preceded to hit two back-to-back batters from Tyler to force the go-ahead run for the Silver Knights.
Three outs after stamping his ticket to regionals, TC had only three pitches left for starting pitcher Ty Walton. After Walton walked Luke Ankrom, Brown came on in relief and couldn’t handle a comeback from Harbor Haught, who reached the bunt single.
Chase Barkley, who pitched the first six innings for Williamstown and allowed five runs on seven hits, made a perfect sacrifice to advance the Yellowjacket runners to second and third base.
Coach Maxwell called Thomas to face Brown, after falling 0-2 down in the count, the move didn’t seem too profitable. The one-turn rollercoaster ride for both teams came to a head when Thomas sent a through ball that the centre-back couldn’t signal. As Williamstown’s two base runners scored, Thomas advanced to third base without fully realizing the impact, then joined in the celebration with his teammates.
“Our kids have been battling all season – I didn’t expect anything different,” Tyler’s coach Rob Jones said after his ball club finished the 2022 campaign at 23-9. “I put our children against anyone. They fought all the way.
“The kids won 23 games, which is a school record and the first conference championship. And we fought until the last out. I’m just proud of the efforts of the youngsters throughout the season.
Tyler trailed 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Carson Hill vacated the No. 9 spot in the batting order with two strikeouts, but hit wild pitch on an abandoned third strike. That opened the door for Leewood Molessa, who homered over the field fence to left center – just to the right of the scoreboard. Molessa finished the afternoon 2-on-2 with a home run, a triple, three runs scored and two RBIs.
“Leewood Molessa is a college type hitter – he’s never hurt us that way before, but he still hits the ball hard,” Jones said. “It’s a tough decision whether to throw him or not. They have a guy on the base, and Leewood has found one.
Jones gave Walton the go-ahead to go, and the junior responded by giving up just one run on two hits over the first four innings. Leewood Molessa’s starting triple in the third set was quickly followed by younger brother Maxwell Molessa who scored an RBI double.
“It was a great team win – everyone contributed at every level,” said Leewood Molessa. “Chase threw one hell of a baseball game. We had guys stepping into big situations when they were in the box. We picked up Schramm there at the end – he got in the dugout and we said “you guys are good”. We’ll get you,” and we did.
“As for TJ, he’s a really relaxed guy. Normally he has a lot of poise when he’s in the box. Being a freshman, it’s great for him to be able to step into a situation like this. He got juice and he grabbed the barrel of the bat.
Barkley pitched four shutout innings until Tyler Consolidated posted a third-place finish in the fifth inning. Three consecutive one-out singles from the bottom third of the order (Weston Henderson, Westbrook and Carson Gorby) led to the Silver Knights’ first inning. After a loaded walk from the bases, Zade Billings kept the line moving with another RBI single. Brown veered on another run with his sacrificial fly.
“Tyler is probably one of the best teams we’ve played all year, if not the best team, so if you’re able to pull it off and the way we did, that’s only going to continue in next game,” coach Maxwell said after his Yellowjackets won three of five meetings this season with TCHS. “I didn’t like that we had to leave, but it’s not a bad thing to leave. It’s definitely a momentum builder.
“Tyler Consolidated is the toughest competitor in the sense that they really find ways to stay in games. They do a great job of figuring out how to score points. They play us to the best of their abilities every time they Overcoming them today was a big problem for us.