Patrick Henry Battles to the End in Northwest Region Tourney

Patrick Henry continued to show its late-season resilency Friday afternoon in the Group AAA Northwest Region first round game against Forest Park of Manassas.

PH slugger Britt Dunnavant launches a RBI double to the center-field fence in the first inning. Dunnavant also had a triple and a single in his 3-hit afternoon.
PH slugger Britt Dunnavant launches a RBI double to the center-field fence in the first inning. Dunnavant also had a triple and a single in his 3-hit afternoon.

The Patriots fought back from three early deficits, including one of five runs in the bottom of the third, to knot the score against the 15-7 Bruins, but Forest Park plated three runs in the top of the sixth to break a 9-9 deadlock before holding on for the 12-9 win.

“I’m extremely proud of all these guys,” PH head coach Aaron Haigler noted after the game.”We started the year 0-8 and many teams would have thrown it in the barrel. The guys won the Western Valley District last week and fought to the end today.”

On a wind-blown afternoon at John Edwards Field, it didn’t take long for both teams to realize every fly ball was going to turn into an adventure.

After Forest Park opened with a run in the first, PH responded in like fashion in their half of the opening frame. Jimmy Butler drew a base on balls before consumate slugger Britt Dunnavant launched a towering drive falling just short of the fence in center that had the Bruin outfield circling like kites. Butler scored to tie things at 1.

Forest Park gained some space after a run in the second and four in the third put the Bruins on top 6-1. Back came the Patriots.

Upstart leadoff hitter Butler, a freshman who joined the varsity after the 0-8 start, brought the PH dugout to life when he sent a drive down the left field line that cleared the fence with room to spare. Dunnavant followed with a triple, Thomas Stockstill and Evan Deyerle each singled, and when Forest Park went wide to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt, the Patriots had the bases loaded with none out.

Austin Lowman continued the rally with a well-placed single on a 0-2 count, and after the first PH out, Justin Snelling laced a shot past the Bruin first baseman, plating 2 runs to tie things at 6.

Forest Park scored three in the top of the fourth before PH rallied again and looked to be in great shape to take its first lead of the game.

Dunnavant, Stockstill, Deyerle and Xavier Espinosa opened the PH fourth with hits that got the Patriots to within 9-8. Forest Park lefty reliever Kyle Staats then came up with the turning point of the game when he struck out the last three PH batters with the bases loaded to prevent further damage.

Although Stockstill tied the game at 9 with a two-out RBI double in the fifth, Staats closed the door the rest of the way and the Bruins picked up the deciding three runs on two singles, a pair of sacrifices and back-to-back doubles.

“I just wanted to keep the ball down,” Staats said afterward. “I kept telling myself, stay away from fly balls and don’t get rattled. I was able to zone-in.”

“That’s a very good hitting team over there,” Forest Park head coach Sonny Moss said of the Patriots. “This wind was  something,” he added with a laugh. “We just wanted ground balls, and Kyle is a tough kid who was only making his second relief appearance of the year.”

“28 hits combined,” Moss added. “We managed to win; just put it that way. And, we keep on fighting for another day.”

“Losing one like this is part of life’s ups and downs,” Haigler noted. “We had three or four deep drives that hit off the fence with guys on bases, but that’s part of it. We only lose four seniors, so we’ll take some time off, start our workouts and be ready to get back at it in August.”

by Bill Turner

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