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Seventh-inning surge lifts Lancaster over Patrick Henry in state semifinal (video)

On Thursday, June 13th the Lancaster Red Devils varsity baseball team travelled to Pulaski, VA to compete in the group 1A state championships at Calfee Park. The Red Devils advanced in their quarterfinal game by shutting out William Campbell 5-0. In semi-final action, Lancaster matched up against Patrick Henry – Glade Spring.

The Red Devils celebrate their state semifinal win over Patrick Henry. Photo by Robyn Saunders

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

When Lancaster coaches Welby Saunders and Scotty George needed the clutch hits, the freshmen pulled their weight in one of the biggest games of their young high school baseball careers.

Designated hitter Brendan Walker broke a 1-1 tie and drove in the winning run in the top of the seventh last Thursday as Lancaster triumphed 3-1 over Patrick Henry in the semifinals of the VHSL Class 1 state baseball tournament at Calfee Park in Pulaski.

The win advanced Lancaster to the championship game Friday against Auburn.

It was the second straight year Patrick Henry had lost in a close semifinal game.

The semifinal pitted two evenly-matched teams and pitchers against each other. The Rebels came in at 18-6 and Lancaster 21-3. Both pitched dominating seniors. Matthew Kleinfelter went a full game for LHS and southpaw Isaac Eldreth went the distance on the mound for PH.

Eldreth held the Red Devils to five hits, two coming in the seventh inning.

Kleinfelter, who came into the game with 29 straight scoreless innings, gave up six hits. He struck out seven, didn’t walk a batter and allowed one unearned run. That run was the only one scored on the James Madison University signee in his final 36 innings as a Red Devil.

PH took the early lead, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning when Josh Presley, who’d reached on an error, scored on a Colby Taylor RBI ground out.

Lancaster tied the game in the top of the fourth when Adam Wilmore drove in Nick Wohleking on a sacrifice fly. Wohleking had led off with a double to the warning track in right field and moved to third on a passed ball.

Although Eldreth only struck out one in 6.2 innings, he had the Devils hitting right to the gloves.

“He did a great job and my hat’s off to him,” said Saunders.

Walker broke the tie with one out in the top of the seventh, smacking a triple down the left field line that allowed Jayden Chapman to score from first base. Chapman had reached on a fielder’s choice, beating out an attempted double play. Spencer Crittenden added a security run, hitting a two-out double to score Walker for the 3-1 lead.

Kleinfelter came in to wrap up the win but not before PH put runners on the corners with two outs. LHS right fielder Ashton Hollingsworth, who’d ended the quarterfinal game with a sliding catch in the outfield, came through with a third-out grab to save the win. Hollingsworth had the fans on their feet as he slipped and almost fell on the wet grass before pulling in a fly ball to end the game.

“Patrick Henry had us a few times in bad spots but we were able to get out of it because of Matthew’s pitching and making good plays,” said Saunders.

The Rebels left two runners on base in the second, third and seventh innings.

“The freshmen came in and hit the ball when we needed it,” said Kleinfelter.

Chapman and Walker went 1-for-3 each with Walker hitting a triple for an RBI. Crittenden was 1-for-4 with a double for an RBI and Wohleking and Chris Cunningham had a hit each.

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