Over the duration of the current decade, the Green Bobcats and the Notre Dame Titans have had many great battles on the baseball diamond — with many of those battles deciding the SOC I champion.
On Monday evening, the fans in attendance could definitely chalk up another classic for the books.
Behind a great pitching duel between Notre Dame’s Drew Cassidy and Green’s Tayte Carver, the fans of both respective ballclubs got to see another thrilling treat as the SOC I baseball strongholds duked it out over seven full innings.
But when the dust settled, it was Carver’s two-run double, along with a trio of unassisted double plays, that allowed the Green Bobcats to prevail by a 3-2 tally and clinch their first SOC I championship since 2011 in another nailbiter between the two foes, this time on the campus of Notre Dame High School in Portsmouth.
For Dan McDavid, the elation and joy for his unit was evident in the face of the Bobcats’ humble leader.
“It feels great to see the kids win the SOC I title,” McDavid said. “They were excited coming in. They knew the situation. Basically, our magic number was two, but before we got on the bus, the guys were saying, ‘Let’s just take care of it on Monday evening), and we won’t have to worry about it.’ It was a good baseball game. Baseball’s a funny game. Eventually, if you keep doing things right, it starts to pay off for you.”
Even though Notre Dame dropped both affairs to Green in the season series with the loss, it was impossible for Drew Mader to find fault with his team’s effort and performance.
“Baseball is a super funny sport,” Mader said. “In one second, you can be on top of the world, and the next second, you feel like every ball that you hit is right at someone. I feel like we outhit and outpitched Green, and did the little things right that we talked about doing all year leading up to this point. Sometimes, however, the cards just don’t fall in the manner that you want them to. Our guys played their butts off. They gave it their all and put their hearts and souls into it.”
From the outset, the contest proved to be a grind-it-out affair as the Bobcats and the Titans had to scratch and claw for runs from the getgo.
But behind the electric bat of Tayte Carver, Green was able to strike with the first salvo. Carver’s single to right field allowed Tyler Darnell — who drew a walk and stole a base — to score from second as the Bobcats took a 1-0 lead early on.
Notre Dame, however, wasn’t phased. The Titans used a hard-hit double to center field by Sam Kayser, along with an error, a stolen base from Drew Cassidy, and a drawn walk by Tyler Speas, to load the bases with one out in the frame.
However, in what would later become a recurring theme, a hard hit ball by CJ Corns back up the middle was snagged by Tayte Carver on the hill, and from there, Corns simply made the throw over to Hayden Whitis at first base to record an inning-ending double play.
But ever persistent, Notre Dame came back strong.
Even though Kayser was thrown out by Darnell after the former tried to stretch a ball hit to center into a double, Cameron Rodriguez allowed the Titans to start a rally as his single was followed by a single by Speas where both runners advanced into scoring position on the relay throw into the infield. After a walk by Corns loaded the bases, an error with two gone allowed Notre Dame to tie the score at one apiece — thanks again to its consistent production from the middle of the order.
“When we win ballgames, and when we put together complete games, is when the middle to the back of our order steps up,” Mader said. “When they step up, it makes it that much easier for us to coach the game and to play the game. Hat’s off to them. They’re doing the little things right. Hopefully, that leads to good things as the season progresses and as we go into tournament time.”
Then, the starting hands took over.
Fueled by an excellent fourth inning where both individuals faced the minimum, Cassidy and Tayte Carver each recorded quality starts. Cassidy struck out nine batters and surrendered just seven hits (one going for extra bases) in a complete game effort that was aided by just one error by the Titans in the field, while Carver threw five innings of six-hit baseball, also allowing only one extra base hit and holding eight Notre Dame runners on base.
“I’m proud of the way that Drew pitched,” Mader said. “He threw a very complete game and kept Green off-balance. There was the one super hard-hit ball by Tayte Carver, but Tayte’s an excellent talent and he’s going to get his fair share of hard-hit baseballs. Drew threw wonderfully. As for our defense, how we played tonight is the whole goal of high school baseball. I told Drew (Cassidy) and everybody else out here after the game, ‘It’s going to be difficult to strike out 21 batters. You can’t strike them all out. If you can, then hat’s off to you. You’ve got to have confidence and trust in your defense.’”
But with the game tied at 1-1 and both teams needing a big hit, it was Tayte Carver who helped his own cause.
After Tanner Kimbler singled and Darnell reached on an error, the sophomore continued his stellar play in clutch situations by lining a bullet to the left center field fence, which scored both Kimbler and Darnell as Carver’s second and third RBI of the affair put Green ahead by a 3-1 tally.
The super sophomore, who batted 2-for-4 from the cleanup position, drove in all three of the Bobcats’ runs en route to playing a crucial part in the outcome. Carver nearly added a home run in the seventh and final frame that just missed being fair by a matter of feet.
“Tayte got the big hit when we needed it, and almost had another big hit there in his last at-bat,” McDavid said. “That ball missed being fair by about four feet. He’s just a super kid who plays tough and smart. Then, as we did when he gets close to 100 pitches last night, we’re going to bring big brother in, and try to put any fires out or take any hope away. Trevor pitched a heck of a seventh inning.”
Still, Notre Dame was down for the challenge.
After getting Rodriguez on via a walk, it looked as if Cassidy was going to respond to Carver’s challenge by producing a run of his own with a hard hit ball down the first base line. However, Bryce Ponn responded to the task by snagging Cassidy’s rocket of a hit by catching the shot as if it were a pop fly, and recorded a second unassisted double play by gunning Rodriguez on a 5-3 putout at first.
That unassisted double play proved to be huge for the Bobcats because Notre Dame came back with a vengeance, as a Speas walk, a Corns single, and an error allowed Speas to score from second. Tayte Carver, however, didn’t let Notre Dame’s resiliency phase him, as the sophomore came back by recording a huge punchout to allow Green to keep the advantage.
With Trevor Carver, Tayte’s older brother, in for relief duty, Notre Dame again showed that they weren’t phased as consecutive base hits by Tyler Shaw and Trevon Turner put runners at first and second for the Titans with no out.
And behind another hard shot off of the bat of Kayser, it looked as if the Titans were finally destined to take the lead — and the victory.
But Ponn, however, had other plans. The sophomore third baseman responded to the hit by jumping up in the air to snag Kayser’s shot and then quickly fired to gun Shaw over at second base to turn the double play. Carver then responded by simply forcing Rodriguez into a simple 6-4 forceout to end the crazy sequence of events.
“The (last unassisted triple play) that Bryce made was unbelievable,” McDavid said. “He had to climb the ladder to catch it, he came down with it, and he had the presence of mind to find the guy furthest off and throw him out. Baseball is just a funny game sometimes. You can hit the ball hard, go 0-for-4, and walk home feeling good about yourself because you hit the ball so hard.”
After a well-pitched seventh inning by Cassidy, the starting hand responded by launching a nicely hit ball that looked like it would drop into the center field gap.
However, Darnell, who was running all the way, never gave up on the ball, and tracked Cassidy’s well-hit ball down with a diving catch in center to force Notre Dame into another hard-luck out. Carver then took care of business from there, striking out Speas and forcing Corns into a 4-3 groundout to clinch Green’s first SOC I title since 2011.
“Tyler’s been one of our leaders all year long,” McDavid said. “For him to come up big like that shows the kind of young man that he is. He brings a heck of a glove in the field, is over .400 at the plate, and brings a lot of speed to the table. (Sam) Kayser gets rid of the ball as quick as anybody we’ve faced this year, so I didn’t want to run a whole lot with them, but with (Tyler) Darnell on, I knew that I had a chance. When you’re trying to turn the lineup over, it’s great because he’s technically in scoring position if he gets on first base.”
Even with the loss, Mader knows that Notre Dame can’t lay off the gas pedal, even with the SOC I title out of reach, because there’s still plenty to fight for, including tournament seeding and pride — the latter of which has been evident in how Notre Dame has continued to improve.
“This game was much cleaner versus Friday, where we kind of let (the first contest against Green) get away from us with some bad plays and bad mistakes out in the field. However, in this contest, everything that we did put us on par for another great game, from how we hit the ball to how we fielded it to how we pitched. We just couldn’t get the timely hit, and it kind of stunk the way that worked out, but hat’s off to Green. They’re a good team with good kids, they hit the ball hard, and they don’t give up. That was evident in Friday’s game and it was evident (on Monday).”
As for the Bobcats, who are 15-3 and 10-0 in SOC I play, it’s a group that simply refuses to quit.
“We’ve just got guys that want to win,” McDavid said, “and they’re doing a great job of it so far.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7