Despite being the lone junior in an otherwise-senior dominated starting lineup, Parkersburg South's Tyler Berry was far from being the odd man out.
Without his run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning during Wednesday's Class AAA, Region I championship game against Morgantown, the Patriots would be talking about what ifs rather than what's next.
"Honestly, I believed in him," said South lead-off hitter Clay Walters. "I didn't have any doubt in him and I knew he could do it again."
Flashback to April 13 and the St. Albans Tournament. South has an opportunity to upset top-ranked Hurricane. Berry at the plate and the end result is a game-winning hit for a 7-6 victory.
Now more than a month later and South trails Morgantown 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning at Hank Greenburg Field. At stake is a trip to the state tournament in Charleston.
Berry falls behind in the count 0-2. He steps out of the box and takes several steps away from the home plate area. Takes a deep breath and returns for the next pitch. Ball one.
Somewhat of a reprieve, but the Patriots are still down to their final strike of the season. On the next offering, Berry goes the opposite way and the ball sails over the second baseman's head and Braxton Johnson scores from second base to tie the game at 7.
"I was just trying to calm down from my previous at bat - I had a solid ground ball, but it wasn't anything I was proud of," Berry said. "On that hit (in the seventh inning), I was so happy and overjoyed, and made sure I touched the bag."
Nail-biters are nothing foreign to South baseball. In 35 games this season, the Patriots have played in 11 one-run games. They are 6-5 in those contests, including 4-0 during their current 11-game winning streak.
"We always find ourselves in a hole and find a way to get out of it," said Walters, who delivered the game-winning hit in the eighth inning in South's 8-7 win against Morgantown. "It's about not giving up."
Morgantown pitching helped matters for South by walking five batters and three more.
South coach Matt Null talks about how the process of molding this current group of seniors and juniors into a state contender began when they were in seventh grade. A heavy weight has been lifted off their shoulders and now the Patriots are concentrating on next Friday's semifinal game at Appalachian Power Park.
South is seeking its first state title since 1975.
"This is kind of unchartered territory," South senior Wes Mitchem said. "We talked about this ever since sine we were in seventh grade. This group said we were going to do this when we got here. We're finally backing it up and we're finally doing what we told people we were going to do."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org