By CHRISTOPHER WADE
DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After getting shutout by George Washington pitcher Jeff Wong in the regular season, Riverside knew it would have its hands full in Wednesday’s regional semifinal.
The Warriors, though, had an ace of their own — Cameron Norris.
Riverside scored the only run of the game and it was all Norris needed to outduel Wong and give the Warriors a 1-0 home shutout win over George Washington in a Class AAA Region 3 semifinal.
With the victory, Riverside (18-10) will host the regional final against Greenbrier East on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The winner advances to next week’s state tournament at Appalachian Power Park.
Norris only struck out five batters compared to Wong’s 10, but Norris made key pitches and the Riverside defense was flawless in the field with zero errors compared to the Patriots’ three.
Both pitchers only allowed three hits. After Norris struck out Grant Wooten to end the game with a runner on second base, Norris, a West Virginia State signee, pumped his fist in exultation.
“Let’s just say, I was feeling it a bit,” Norris said. “They are a great team. When you hear GW, the first thing that comes to your mind is they are good. I want to finally get to Charleston (for the state tournament).”
Riverside coach Pat Vogelsang said he knew it would be a pitchers’ duel.
“They both pitched well,” he said. “When it comes down to it, you are going to have to fight and scrape to get runs, and sometimes one is all you need. Cam was great. You know what you are going to get out of him.”
Norris knew he’d have to have his best stuff against Wong.
“I don’t know if it was my best stuff but I was so focused in,” Norris said. “I felt like I was more focused tonight than I have in a long, long time. They are a great hitting team. I just had to make them put the ball in play and trust my guys behind me. They made great plays.”
While Norris was on his game for Riverside, he was also responsible for the game’s only run in the third inning, driving in Derik Chestnut with a one-out RBI single.
Chestnut began the frame with a single, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Trevor Smith and scored on Norris’ single up the middle.
“I wasn’t comfortable,” Norris said of the 1-0 lead. “I knew I had to stay focused, come back out and still throw strikes and make sure i was hitting my locations. At that time, i didn’t think we had them.”
While Chestnut scored the game’s only run, he also started a rundown with two outs and a GW runner on third base that helped get the Warriors out a jam in the third inning.
Ty McClanahan singled to begin the inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wong. Norris retired GW leadoff hitter Josh Petit on a strikeout, leading to one of the biggest plays of the game by the Riverside defense.
John Thomas reached on an infield single but Chestnut fielded the ball behind the mound and faked a throw to first. He caught McClanahan in a rundown and catcher Andrew Massey applied the tag on the 6-5-2 putout to end the threat.
Norris retired the next nine GW hitters after the rundown. He needed one final great play from his defense in the seventh inning.
GW’s Austin Griffith opened the inning with a single. Right fielder Clayton Anderson hit a Norris offering deep in the left-center field gap, but left fielder Chaz Davis caught the ball on a dead sprint, saving extra bases and possibly the tying run on the play.
“We call that routine,” Vogelsong said. “That has got to be the attitude. The defense did make a lot of good plays but that is why you practice, to make plays like that.”
It was a tough ending for GW and coach Chad Campbell.
“It was a pitching battle,” Campbell said. “That’s what we expected. We didn’t expect to get shutout. Norris was tough. They played better than we did tonight.
“We had opportunities I felt like and they took advantage of theirs.”