By Randy Arrington
SHENANDOAH, June 23 — It was one of those games. The ball had eyes, and the bounces went their way. But the Islanders of Poquoson were able to make waves at just the right time, and the home-standing Panthers of Page County did a little bit to help their opponent and hurt themselves.
For the first five innings of the 2A state semifinal on Wednesday, Page County High School appeared to have the better team — both in the field and at the plate. Half of the Islanders runs on the day would be unearned, gained only through errors and walks. Page sophomore Lance Williams looked dominant on the mound, retiring six straight batters before Poquoson got something going in the third.
The Islanders scored first with two runs in the third inning off no hits and two errors. Although Williams eventually struck out the side (with two going down looking), he also walked in both runs as the Panthers fell behind early 2-0.
After leaving one runner on base in the second and two in the third, the Panthers answered back in the bottom of the fourth inning with three runs off five hits. Juniors Caden Good, Aidan Painter and Hagan Bradley picked up the RBIs.
Poquoson then picked up another run in the fifth off of three hits to tie the game.
Knotted up at 3-3, Poquoson executed some “small ball” to perfection to break the game open in the sixth inning. The Panthers had trouble fielding bunts all day, but to the Islanders’ credit, they were perfectly placed bunts with a great touch, dropping dead in the grass a few feet down the line from the plate.
A lead-off walk in the top of the sixth was followed by three well-executed bunts, including a suicide squeeze from Gabe Ford. Only one of those three bunts resulted in an out, so Poquoson now had two on base with only one out after taking a 4-3 lead. A single by Chase Horton drove in another run before Williams struck out the next batter to give the Panthers two outs. That’s when the game began to slip away.
Williams — both the Bull Run District and Region 2B “Player of the Year” — got pulled after walking another batter to load the bases. After recording 11 of 15 outs by strikeout through five innings, Coach Wayne Comer pulled the sophomore and brought in his older brother, senior T.R. Williams. This was only T.R.’s third appearance this season after recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome and a 54-day stint in the hospital. T.R. looked sluggish in his June 1 debut on the mound, but posted a stellar performance on the hill more than two weeks later in the Region 2B championship.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Tech recruit faced a tough situation — bases loaded, two outs, Panthers down by two. T.R. would face only three batters, walking two and striking out one. However, all three at-bats resulted in runs scored, as a passed third strike didn’t get to first before the batter. Page fell behind 8-3, and Coach Comer brought in Caleb Knighton to close out the game.
Page County was able to get the first two batters on base in the bottom of the seventh before two infield grounders ended the game, including a double play.
The Panthers recorded seven hits on the day by seven different players. The Islanders posted five hits, with Chase Horton going 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored.
Lance Williams struck out 12 batters in 5-2/3 innings of work, allowing five hits and four walks in the loss. Justin Bradshaw picked up the win for Poquoson after going the last 3-2/3 innings of the game.
The Panthers end their season at 11-4 after making their third-straight appearance to the state tournament. Poquoson (13-2) started the season at 0-2 before going on a 13-game winning streak that now takes them to the state championship for the first time since 2014. While Page picked state titles in 2011 and 2018, Poquoson won the AA state title in 2009 and 2010 before going to the 3A finals in 2014.
The Islanders were scheduled to travel Lebanon High School for the 2A state championship at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 26. Lebanon (Region D champ) defeated Chatham (Region C) 4-0 in the other state semifinal on Wednesday at Chatham.
For scores, schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.
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