YORK — For five and a half innings Tuesday, Powhatan pitcher Trenton Tiller and his counterpart, Trey Gibson of Grafton, dueled in a matchup that could be talked about in conversations long after this year's Class 4 state baseball playoffs.
But in the bottom of the sixth, the Clippers finally managed to take advantage of Tiller’s weariness. They put three runs on the scoreboard, which was enough to give the hosts a 3-0 victory in the state quarterfinals.
With the win, the Clippers advance to the state semifinals, which will begin on Friday morning in Salem.
“Someone was going to have to break it open,” said an equally weary Grafton coach Matt Lewellen after watching his team run a quartet of wind sprints to celebrate its triumph. Just last Thursday, Leah Lewellen gave birth to the couple's second child. Both mother and child were in attendance at Grafton to witness the win.
Fortunately for Lewellen, it was Grafton that delivered the game-changing blows. Zach Wojnarowski opened the bottom of the sixth with a double. Two batters later, Gibson, who struck out seven Indians and gave up four hits over seven innings, helped his own cause by driving in the game’s first run on a single to left. He reached second as the throw toward home flew wide of the plate.
“Zach read the signs well, and I met a curveball up front,” Gibson said of the pitch. "That was pretty big.”
After Tyler Cotten was walked intentionally, Tiller got Adam Sanders to fly out to center. But then Jack Daszkowski delivered the crushing blow. His liner to left field was bobbled by Jacob Bell, allowing Gibson and Cotton to score the game-deciding runs.
“I had (struck out) on my first two at-bats, and I told myself this can’t happen again," Daszkowski said. Asked if he was looking for a particular pitch, Daszkowski added, “No, it was a straight fastball.”
Grafton almost got on the board in the first inning as Gibson leveled Tiller’s pitch. But Tymmie Hart reached over the fence in center field to steal a sure home run and end the scoreless inning.
In the bottom of the second, Cotten drilled a grounder down the third-base line for a double. Sanders added a sacrifice bunt, to move Cotten to third, but Tiller struck out Daszkowski and Tyler Davis to get out of the jam and keep the game scoreless after two innings.
Tiller kept the Clippers off-guard throughout the game, taking little time between pitches and not allowing any of the Grafton hitters to get comfortable in the batter's box.
“He pitched one heck of a game,” Lewellen said of Tiller, who struck out seven Clippers and allowed only one hit through the first six innings. “I didn’t mind what he was doing. That’s part of the game, and he was doing what he does well.”
However, Tiller threw 54 pitches through the game’s first three innings and began to tire in the sixth.
On the other side, Gibson escaped jams, too. In the fifth, Nick Rini and Zach Tillery opened with singles. A groundout advanced the runners to second and third. But Gibson got Powhatan's Hunter Hopkins out on a grounder to second, and then Brad Painter hit a grounder back to the mound for an easy out to end the inning.
Powhatan 000 000 0 — 0 6 1
Grafton 000 003 x — 3 4 0
W: Trey Gibson. L: Trenton Tiller.
Records: Powhatan 19-4, Grafton 22-2.