Johnny Walton had injured his elbow and thought his season was over. But instead of seeing a doctor and getting a diagnosis, he decided to wait it out. He rested for a month.
“I got some needed rest,” Walton said.
The senior pitcher returned to the mound in the playoffs, and on Friday, he entered the game hoping to preserve Prince George’s lead and its season.
Walton pitched the final 2 2/3 innings, stomped out each Deep Run attempt at a rally, and Prince George won 7-3 in the Class 5 state semifinals at Glen Allen.
Prince George (20-3) will face either Potomac or Freedom (South Riding) on Saturday at Deep Run at 10 a.m.
It’ll be the first state championship game appearance for Prince George, which bowed out in the semifinals last year. This team is more prepared and works harder, Walton said.
He was on the mound last year when Prince George fell to Halifax and its ace pitcher, Anddrew Abbott, now a University of Virginia pitcher.
He wasn’t optimistic he would pitch in another state tournament. But after a month of rest, he started working out his arm. One day in practice he decided to throw with Justin Starke. He was amazed he could throw without pain.
He’s pitched in Prince George’s past four playoff games, all in relief.
“Our pitching really needed him as our closer,” starter Hunter Carden said.
Carden didn’t start well. He gave up a single to the first batter of the game, Scott Sweeney, then an RBI double to the next hitter, Brooks Mazey. But then Carden’s problems seemed to vanish. He retired nine straight batters.
“I had to take a deep breath and focus on getting out,” Carden said.
He went 4 1/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits. He struck out six, throwing a heavy dose of curveballs. Carden commands a knuckle curve, which has more action than a standard curve and is easier to locate, he said.
Prince George put a runner in scoring position in six different innings. Evan Kozen hit an RBI double, and Mike Peterson added a triple, then scored on Brandon Hatcher’s single.
Deep Run (14-10) also committed five errors, greasing the skids for Prince George. Eight different Royals reached base, and all nine had either a run or an RBI.
Deep Run’s surprising trip through the postseason came to an end. The Wildcats were the eighth and final seed in the region tournament, but won four straight playoff games, including the region championship game against Prince George.
Deep Run starter David Hanson went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits.
Mazey finished 2 for 4 with a double, and Nick Noonan was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
Prince George 210 002 2 -- 7 6 4
Deep Run 100 002 0 -- 3 9 5
Carden 4.1, Walton 2.2. Hanson 5.1, Bradt 0.2, Weisner. W: Carden. L: Hanson.
Records: Prince George 20-3; Deep Run 14-10