When Courtland baseball coach Tim Acors took a gander around the Battlefield District before the season started, he believed the top five or six teams would be on an even playing field.
Acors’ assessment has come to fruition as the district regular season has concluded and the semifinals of the tournament took place Wednesday evening at Caroline Stadium in Bowling Green.
The third-seeded Cougars emerged with a hard-fought 10-6 victory over defending Class 3 state champion Spotsylvania, the No. 2 seed, in the opening contest after scoring eight runs in the final two innings.
Caroline, the regular season champions and No. 1 seed, escaped upset-minded Chancellor with a 5-2 victory after falling behind 2-0 in the top of the third.
The Cavaliers (13-6) will host Courtland (12-7) for the district tournament championship tonight at 6 p.m.
“I thought from the beginning of the year everybody was going to be fairly equal and it was just going to be a matter of who’s still standing at the end,” Acors said.
The Cougars are still standing because they were able to overcome what started out as a dominant performance by Spotsylvania senior ace Trevor Croson.
Croson collected four hits at the plate and was also carving the Cougars up on the mound with eight strikeouts through five innings when the Knights (12-7) committed two sixth-inning errors to thwart his sparkling night.
Courtland standout Addie Burrow led off the inning with a walk and then stole second and third to spark the Cougars. Connor Dymon had an RBI single in the frame and Cole Ely and Ethan Critz both reached base on bunts.
The Knights were unraveling as a simple toss to home plate was dropped by catcher Jonathan Olsberg to plate another Courtland run. The Cougars led 7-4 after the inning.
Spotsylvania got two runs back in the bottom of the sixth on RBI doubles by Olsberg and Brian Baker, but the Cougars tallied three more in the top of the seventh for added insurance.
Courtland recorded just four hits, but the Knights committed five errors.
“We were very out of character,” Spotsylvania head coach Travis Payne said. “We haven’t made mental mistakes like that all year. We’ve had games with some physical errors, but tonight we struggled there with some mental stuff.”
The Cavaliers didn’t make a single error in their comeback win over the Chargers. Caroline junior John Chapman picked up the win in relief of Gavin Cecil after pitching a hitless sixth and seventh inning with two strikeouts.
The Cavaliers took their first lead of the night on a Chancellor throwing error from first base to home in the bottom of the sixth inning that scored Xavier Campbell and Bryan Kovach to give Caroline a 4-2 advantage. Joseph Garner’s RBI double provided the final margin.
“When I came in it was 2-2 and you know when you get on the mound you’ve got to hold them,” Chapman said. “I knew eventually we were going to score a run. All I needed to do was come in pumped and throw strikes.”
The Cavaliers are now seeking their first district tournament title since 2001. They swept Courtland in the regular season. Acors said Caroline is “scrappy” and does “all the little things necessary to win.”
“Courtland’s a good team,” Caroline head coach Frank Dow said. “We had a barnburner last time. Hopefully we can come out and play well [tonight].”
Spotsylvania will be back in action in the Region 3B tournament that begins next Friday. Chancellor will compete in the Region 4B tournament next week.
PATRICK MILLNER, Aidan Forster (6) and Owen Reilly. TREVOR CROSON, Alex Boutchyard and Jonathan Olsberg.
Gavin Cecil, JOHN CHAPMAN (6) and Toby Somers. George Aste, WILL LIBBY (4), Brett Coleman (6) and Kyle Kaiser.