Riverside first baseman Brady Wilkinson reaches for a throw that sailed over his head, allowing South Charleston's Jacob Marler to reach safely.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since DuPont and East Bank high schools consolidated to create Riverside in 1999, the Warriors have not made an appearance in the state baseball tournament.
After Tuesday's 4-1 win in eight innings at South Charleston in the Class AAA Region 3 semifinals, just one win stands in the way of ending that streak.
The Warriors (13-15) survived a pitching duel and plated three runs in the top of the eighth before senior Tyler Hall set the Black Eagles (16-14) down in order in the bottom half to clinch a spot in the Region 3 championship at 5 tonight against Woodrow Wilson in Beckley.
Hall pitched all eight innings and struck out seven in the win. He said he noticed in Riverside's regular-season game against South Charleston that the Black Eagles could be fooled by changing speeds. The change-up accounted for several of Hall's seven strikeouts.
"I noticed [in the previous game] I buckled down on their first four and struggled with the bottom half of the lineup," Hall said. "I noticed that if you mix speeds and throw all your pitches, they'll either hit it into the ground or strike out."
South Charleston didn't get its first hit until a fourth-inning double by Antonio Brown (who later scored SC's only run on an Austin Santrock single) and grounded out eight times against Riverside's ace. SC starter Jerod Jobst also pitched well, lasting the entire game and allowing one run on three hits prior to Riverside pulling ahead in the eighth.
"Both pitchers did a pretty good job both ways," Black Eagles coach Ken Samms said. "We knew how good [Hall] was. I've got one just as good."
Riverside took the first lead of the game in the third. Cameron Norris started the inning with a single and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Derik Chestnut moved him to third on a sacrifice bunt before Brandon Hancock drove him in on a groundout.
After SC tied it in the fourth, both pitchers settled in. It appeared the Warriors would be the first team to blink when the Black Eagles had runners at second and third with one out in the sixth, but escaped the inning without any damage after Hall posted consecutive strikeouts against Santrock and Trevor Sampson.
"[Hall] showed tonight why he's one of the best in the state," Riverside coach Chris Hawkins said. "That situation there, later in the game when we [had to defend] runners on second and third, that's what he likes to pitch in."
Close games often come down to execution, and in the later stages Tuesday, Riverside was the team able to do that. The Warriors turned a Jonathan Pauley bunt attempt into a double play in the seventh, and when SC attempted to do the same to Hancock's bunt attempt in the eighth, Chestnut was ruled safe at second base. Chestnut scored what proved to be the winning run, with Hancock and Aaron Halstead also scoring later in the inning.
"To win sectionals, we went 10 innings to beat Ripley and to win this game we just went eight innings," Hawkins said.
The Warriors find themselves in another pressure situation today when they travel to play Woodrow Wilson for the right to represent Region 3 in the Class AAA state tournament next week at Appalachian Power Park.
Riverside makes its second consecutive appearance in the regional final, where it lost to eventual state champion Princeton in 2012. Woodrow defeated the Tigers 2-1 on Tuesday in the other Region 3 semifinal.
Reach Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.