Hours before Wednesday's Region 2-A championship game, Lookout Valley baseball coach Lance Rorex invited a motivational speaker to give the team a few words of wisdom. The message — about how to respond to adversity — was put into practice as the Yellow Jackets rallied with late-inning heroics for a 6-5 win over Arts & Sciences.
After the Patriots had tied the game with three runs in the top of the fifth, Lookout Valley answered with a run in the home half of the inning, coming from an unlikely source, and senior Josh Ibach finished his complete-game pitching work for the program's first region title in nearly a decade.
"That lesson couldn't have come at a better time for us," Rorex said. "We talked about how baseball is like life in that you're going to be thrown some tough times and adversity, but it's all about whether you're going to crumble or man up and respond. Our guys responded tonight."
Sophomore Nathan Hart, the Jackets' No. 9 batter, lined a single to right field to plate the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth. It was his first varsity hit and RBI.
"That's the kind of thing that makes you so proud, having a young kid like that step up in a clutch situation and deliver," Rorex said. "I didn't say anything to them from the dugout in that last inning. I just let them play and finish it, and Ibach was an absolute bulldog out there. I told him I wasn't taking him out unless I absolutely had to.
"This was a team that only won 13 games last year, so nobody expected us to be where we are. But we're district and region champions, and now we're just one step from getting to the state tournament."
Ibach scattered seven hits and helped overcome two errors behind him by pitching his way out of trouble. CSAS scored its three fifth-inning runs with two outs but didn't threaten again in the final two innings.
"I was prepared to throw as much as I needed to for us to get the win tonight," Ibach said. "I believed in my teammates behind me and wasn't really worried that we would get it done. We worked extremely hard in the offseason to get to this point, and we're playing with a lot of confidence."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.