Red Bank's Trey Hicks may be a first-year coach that still gets nauseated before every game but the rookie never panicked. He knew them too well.
The Lions rallied twice to win the District 6-AA baseball championship 15-13 over East Hamilton in a three-hour marathon that saw a combined 27 hits, eight errors and nine pitchers.
"I wasn't nervous after they scored five [in the first inning]. I didn't get down when they came back to take the lead the second time," Hicks said. "I challenged the [nine] seniors before the game and told them they might never have this opportunity again. I let them get each other up. I didn't say a word to any of them between innings."
If looks could kill, though, there might have been a handful of Lions at least critically injured.
"If we play defense, we roll through it. If we make plays we're out of a couple of those innings," Hicks said.
It took just nine pitches for East Hamilton to jump ahead 5-0. A hit batsmen and couple of errors on sacrifice attempts loaded the bases for Hayden Williams, who responded with a two-run single, followed by a three-run home run by Patrick Parris.
"I felt pretty good when we went up 5-0," Hurricanes coach Steve Garland said.
The Lions scratched back with a first-inning run on Tyler Phillips' sacrifice fly and three more runs in the second on hits from Hunter Holmes and Tyler Stott, a sac fly from Jared Martin and RBI singles from Ryder Pierce and Ryan Potter.
Red Bank then grabbed the lead with a six-run fourth inning, the big blows were a two-run single by Phillips and a three-run homer from Holmes.
Yet the Hurricanes battled back, scoring eight to take a 13-10 lead, primarily on Parris' two-run double and Nick Ungos' home run. They were aided by the Lions' fourth error, a walk and a hit batsmen, each of which came around to score.
"My thinking then was that it wasn't over. Both teams kept looking to find the right guy in the bullpen to stop the bleeding," Garland said.
The Lions finally went to Bryant Burnette, and the team's most effective stopper was up to the task, holding the Hurricanes scoreless over the last two-plus innings while his teammates scratched out four fifth-inning runs and then added another in the sixth.
"Burnette's been our go-to guy all year," Hicks said after winning his first title.
"Our defense and pitching need improvement but you have to credit Burnette. He stopped the bleeding," Garland said. "You have to credit Red Bank. They outhit us and their pitchers got more guys out."
The Lions got three hits each from T.J. Butts, Potter and Holmes and two hits each from Phillips, Burnette and Stott. Holmes and Phillips had three RBIs apiece.
East Hamilton was led by Patrick Parris, who accounted for five runs with a homer and a double.
Red Bank will be at home Monday to host Polk County, which lost the District 5-AA championship to Sequoyah 15-5. East Hamilton will travel to Sequoyah.