The Ninety Six Wildcat baseball team capped off a special 2014 season by clinching the AA state championship Tuesday night in a game that was delayed due to weather.
“It was really overwhelming,” said senior Joseph Chaney of clinching the Wildcats’ first state baseball title. “We’ve been working at it for a very long time.”
Chaney led a group of six seniors to the title, ending six years on the varsity squad for the talented senior.
The Wildcats dropped a heartbreaker 2-1 in extra innings at Loris High School last Monday to open the state championship best-of-three series. It was a wild pitch that allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth inning and give Loris a 1-0 series lead heading back to Ninety Six. The Wildcats evened the series up with a convincing 5-1 win in front of their hometown fans. The scoring was capped when sophomore Wyatt Owens hit his first career home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It was awesome,” Owens said of hitting his first home run in the state championship series. “I’m glad I got to be a part of (the state championship). We were trying to win it for the seniors.”
With the series knotted at a game apiece and all the marbles on the table, the two schools headed to Spring Valley High School in Columbia for the game that would decide who would end their season in celebration and who would end their season in disappointment.
The Wildcats jumped out to 6-3 lead and were still batting in the bottom of the fourth inning when a nasty thunderstorm halted the game. Golf-ball sized hail fell from the sky as players, coached and fans waited for the storm to pass, willing to stay as long as necessary to complete the final game of the 2014 season. The storm left the field in unplayable shape, however, and the teams were forced to wait out the long holiday weekend before play would resume this past Tuesday.
The wait did not hinder the Wildcats, however, as their confidence only grew leading up to the Tuesday night finale in Columbia.
“We knew going through the whole weekend that it was our game to lose,” Chaney said. “We just knew we had it and they couldn’t stop us. We were feeling good about it, for sure.”
Owens agreed and said the team was brimming with confidence as play resumed Tuesday.
“The biggest thing is that we had a lot of confidence going in (to Tuesday’s game),” Owens said. “We didn’t really know what to expect going into game one and didn’t play our best game and only lost 2-1 in extra innings. After winning game two and playing well in game three before it was stopped, we just knew the championship was ours.”
The Wildcats added two more runs and ended up taking the title with an 8-4 victory in game three. Ninety Six finished the season 20-10 overall and 2-1 when it counted the most, the state championship series.
“It hasn’t really sunk in all the way yet,” Chaney said. “It’s just a great feeling and very humbling to be part of such a special team that was able to win the first state championship in school history.”