Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jim Higgins might be in his first year as head coach, but the stress of this postseason has him feeling like it's closer to 20 years.
The Trojans pulled out a thrilling 5-4, eight-inning victory over visiting Warren County in the do-or-die Region 3-AAA semifinals Monday night after a wild pitch and an errant throw scored Noah Howard from second base. The win sets up a rematch with Bradley Central on Wednesday in the region championship game and guarantees Soddy-Daisy a place in the sectional round on Friday.
"You're absolutely killing me," an overwhelmed, but elated, Higgins told his team during the postgame huddle. "I have gray hairs, very little voice left; but you guys sure do know how to make it exciting."
The wild pitch took what looked like an unfortunate hard bounce off the backstop, giving the Pioneers' catcher a chance to gun down Howard at third base. That bounce would prove lucky for the Trojans (23-12), however, as the throw went into left field and set off a mob scene on the field.
"I saw it go off the wall," Howard said. "I was just trying to get to third and give my team a chance to score."
Soddy-Daisy struck early, building a 3-0 lead through four innings, as sophomore hurler Landon Maynor was in full control. Maynor ran into trouble in the fifth, however, when the Pioneers (18-21) scored all four of their runs to seize the lead 4-3.
That lead was short-lived, as senior Aaron Couch laced an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 4. Couch went 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs.
"I was just focusing on staying on the ball and driving it," Couch said. "This mean so much; this is the furthest I've been all four years on varsity."
The Trojans' other hero was Zane Guess, who pitched brilliantly over the final three innings, striking out six while giving up only two hits and a walk.
"We were never down and never had any doubt in the dugout," Guess said. "There really wasn't any anxiety for me (on the mound). This has been my job all year long, to come in and close out games. You honestly can't explain this win or put it into words."
After a come-from-behind victory in their last at-bat against district rival Bradley Central in the district championship game last week, Higgins has come to expect this type of resilience from his team.
"They find a way every time to make it interesting, but they're always in it and never give up," he said. "They show resilience and fight every single time, and I couldn't be prouder of them right now."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.