Hank McCladdie said he felt nervous when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Wednesday.
Evans High School baseball coaches and players celebrate on the field after defeating Etowah in the ninth inning of Game 3 to advance to the state semifinals.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The senior was staring at Etowah ace Nick DeSilvio in a tie ball game, 6-6, with the winning run on second and one out in the bottom of ninth inning of Game 3 of the Class AAAA state quarterfinals.
"That is the last guy I wanted to see on the mound," McCladdie said of DeSilvio, who won Game 1 with a two-hitter and came on in the seventh inning of Game 3 in relief.
"He owned us yesterday. But coach (Ricky) Beale told me last night that I'd win the game today," McCladdie said.
McCladdie hit a grounder through the left side of the infield, scoring Matt Stark and giving Evans the win, 7-6, and a spot in the state semifinals for the first time since 1995. The Knights lost Game 1, 7-1, but rebounded to take Game 2, 3-2, on Tuesday.
Evans travels to play No. 1 Lee County on Monday, with the best-of-three series beginning at 4 p.m.
It was McCladdie's third RBI single of the game after striking out four times and stranding five runners in Games 1 and 2 of the series.
"I was horrible (on Tuesday)," said McCladdie. "But I had my dad throw some extra batting practice to me. I guess it paid off."
For most of the game, it didn't appear that Evans would need a game-winning hit.
The Knights (23-9) led Etowah 6-0 after six innings thanks to a brilliant pitching performance by Tim Steflik, who was making only his second start of the season.
Steflik left the game in the seventh after giving up only four hits all game.
"He pitched his heart out," Beale said. "We hoped that he could give us his all and he gave us more than we could have imagined."
Etowah got an RBI single by Brad Bowen to make the score 6-1. Then Josh Brodhecker struck out DeSilvio looking to give the Knights two outs.
With just one out from the final four, Brodhecker gave up a grand slam to Matt Carter, and Zack Baker came in and gave up a home run to Sean Dillard.
"I was pretty upset at the time," Steflik said. "I thought I could go a couple more innings. But coach Beale has been around the game for longer than I have and our bullpen has been excellent all season.
"But for a second, I thought my high school career was over."
But DeSilvio appeared to tire in the ninth, his 10th inning pitched over a 24-hour span.
"We were really pushing it putting him in," said Etowah coach David Childress. "You can't ask a kid to pitch that much and expect to win. It was a risk and we lost it. We probably should have taken him out earlier."
When Stark scored the winning run, the entire Evans team jumped in a pile at home plate.
It was the second consecutive Game 3 that the Knights won in their final at-bat. Evans scored five runs in the seventh inning to beat Hardaway, 11-10, in the second round.
"This team has a lot of heart," Steflik said. "We have the will to win and we don't think any team can best us."
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