Patrick Mullins rounds third and races for home as coach Brent Moseley signals the next runner.
The Starr's Mill Panthers have been itching to get back to the state playoffs. Thanks to a huge 3-2 win over Whitewater on Wednesday, the Panthers are not just in the postseason, they're in the driver seat.
It's a huge win for Starr's Mill, who get to end a postseason drought. The Panthers last made the state playoffs in 2009, when they were state runner-up. This is their first outright region title since 2006 with a shared crown in 2007. It was also a bit of sweet revenge. When they met earlier this season, Whitewater won handily 11-1.
In a tightly contested game, there were several players that stood out. Perhaps most of all was Starr's Mill's starting pitcher, sophomore Adam Goodman. Goodman pitched a complete seven innings, striking out four and allowing two runs. He also added a double at the plate.
"Daggum Adam Goodman. He came through. He was unbelievable," said Starr's Mill coach Brent Moseley. "I can't say enough about him. He was thrust into duty. It wasn't supposed to be his start, but he got it done. I'm proud of him."
Whitewater was ready to play right out of the gates. Matthew Rhodes led off the game with a double and would score two batters later on a Brandon Bell sacrifice to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Starr's Mill's bats came alive in the bottom of the third inning. Seth White's double got the ball rolling and a Chris Chaphe infield single set the table. Brett Jeffares roped a triple to score White and courtesy runner Patrick Mullins. Artemis Kadkhodaian followed up with an RBI single to make it 3-1.
Whitewater got one back in the next frame when Nick Fuerstenau drove in Hunter Bening. The Wildcats got a defensive boost in the bottom half when centerfielder Matthew Rhodes made an astounding diving catch to save an extra base hit.
Even Moseley raved about the play after the game. "What about Matthew's catch out there? Oh my goodness."
Unfortunately for Whitewater, they would be out of fireworks. They would be set down in order in the fifth. In the sixth, Zach Hudson led off the inning with a single and his pinch runner would even advance to third base with one out. Bening would reach base after getting plunked before Goodman got two outs to kill the rally.
Whitewater avoided digging a deeper whole in the bottom of the sixth with some quality relief pitching. Starter Jake Lee went an impressive five and a third innings, striking out four and giving up three runs before giving way to the pen with one on and one out. Ethan Gillis and Cam Weslowski each recorded an out to escape the jam.
The wind was quickly taken out of the Cats' sails to start the final frame. Taylor Turner scorched a pitch towards third base, but Seth White made a quick snare of it for the out. Goodman calmly retired the next two batters to set off the Panthers' celebration.
Now Starr's Mill gets to open the state playoffs at home next week.
"It was a tough game. Look at the crowd. It was a state playoff atmosphere," said Moseley. "It's great. I'm proud of them."