FAIRBORN — One strike away from advancing, Greeneview head coach John-Marc Brooks made a difficult but necessary decision to not only pull out a win, but also try and set up his rotation for Friday.
With Hunter Brooks trying to keep the potential tying run at second in a two-run game, he pitched the count to 2-2 against Nate Paumier. After the next two pitches were fouled off, a move was made to bring back in the starter, Keegan Phillips, to finish the game.
“Hunter was at his pitch count for the day to be able to come back in tomorrow,” John-Marc Brooks said. “We were watching carefully and kind of holding our breath in there.”
Back on the mound from centerfield, Phillips’ first two pitches wound up being another fouled swing and a ball to load the count, but a soft fly hit into right field validated the move.
Greeneview survived the late drama in Thursday’s Division III regional semifinal to pull out a 5-3 win against Cincinnati Country Day at Nischwitz Stadium and advance to the regional final for the first time since 1994.
“We’ve always talked about it happening,” Phillips said about being removed from the mound but returning as needed. “I was kind of wanting that to happen as I was like this would be really cool.”
Hunter Brooks came in for the save in a 5-2 game after Phillips went the first six innings. He loaded the bases on two walks with a double mixed in and had a run score after committing a balk with the bases loaded.
He said he did well to get two outs afterward with a strikeout and pop up after not finding the strikezone early and only wanted to make sure he remained on the field when the decision to switch pitchers was made.
“When I heard [Phillips] was going in, I had full faith in him,” Hunter Brooks said. “It’s so hard not to trust him.”
John-Marc Brooks said he left the original decision up to Phillips before the inning began, who expressed full comfort in sticking with what has been working to close out games recently. Greeneview had made the same call for a “closer” in both of its district semifinal and final wins a week ago.
“I think they just trust each other a lot,” he said. “They’re a battery together and have a lot of chemistry with each other. And we have had really good success with that matchup, Keegan going six innings and Hunter coming in to shut the door.”
Greeneview (26-4) has won in several different manners during tournament play, be in early blowouts, close one-run games or comeback wins, but they’ve all involved the tying or winning run coming to the plate in the opponent’s last at-bat.
“You look at the scoreboard, it looks like it’s not as close as it really was,” John-Marc Brooks said. “… I really can’t put into words how exciting this is and it just got a little more exciting that it needed to be at the end.”
Jarrod Mays got the scoring started on Thursday in the top of the second as he nearly bashed a ball over the left field fence, hitting halfway up the wall. After being sacrificed to third, Tanner Thornton sent a long fly into the left field corner for another double and a 1-0 lead.
A misplayed ball in shallow right field in the third inning allowed for a leadoff triple. Two batters later, a squeeze attempt sent down the first base line allowed the runner to score easily and tie the game.
Greeneview took the lead back in the fourth after Ben Myers drew a walk and Mays got his second hit on a line drive to left. Trevor Moore hit a comebacker and CCD attempted to start a 1-6-3 double play, but after the out was made at second the ensuing throw to first sailed wide to allow Myers to round third and head home uncontested.
Myers got his side going again in the sixth for what turned out to be several key insurance runs. He hit a one-out, stand-up triple over the centerfielder’s head and after Moore extended the inning with a walk, Thornton brought in his second RBI of the day with a line drive to center field.
He was followed by a near identically hit ball by Kaden Knisley to make the score 4-1, and Landon Garnder then sent a ball toward third which resulted in a throwing error after it couldn’t be picked out of the ground at first to score another.
A heads up relay by the Rams’ defense in the bottom of the sixth also helped relieve would could have become a more stressful seventh.
Chase Walker had a ball fly over his head in right field, but quickly getting the ball back to Grant Gallagher on the infield, the Rams caught two CCD baserunners standing on third base. Thornton tagged both to ensure at least one out, the other scoring on a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
The Rams will take the field again at 5 p.m. on Friday. Landon Gardner is the probable starter for the regional final after the coach thought about using him to get the final out.
“I said, ‘you want to finish it?’ and he said yeah,” John-Marc Brooks said about Phillips. “It was just looking in his eyes at that point. He lives for those moments.”
Phillips’ heroics set up the formula to try and work once more as Greeneview plays for its first berth at state since 1976.
FINAL: @greeneviewsport 5, Cincinnati Country Day 3
The Rams advance to Friday’s D-III regional final at 5pm back at Nischwitz. They’ll play the winner of game two between Waynesville and Heath. pic.twitter.com/KkFN0cUDnm
— Steven Wright (@Steven_Wright_) June 1, 2023
D-III REGIONAL FINAL
Game: (SW) No. 1 Greeneview vs. (C) No. 3 Heath
Time: 5 p.m., Friday
Location: Nischwitz Stadium, Wright State
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.