Chargers advance to championship series

Cornerstone Christian continued to scrap and pray Thursday, as the Chargers rallied back to knock off Coosa Valley, 7-5, and advance to the AISA 1A state championship.

Having thrown two of their main pitchers in the first game Wednesday, CCS head coach Tim Smith was unsure what to do for the third game of the series.

“I couldn’t sleep (Wednesday) night, because we were really going to go with Patrick (Shaw). I couldn’t get a peace with it,” Smith said

That plan was scrapped close to lunchtime Thursday when senior Pokey Reece told Smith he did not feel comfortable catching and to leave Shaw as the main catcher for the day. Reece also suggested Jacob Henderson start the game with senior Josh Dunnaway closing things out.

Smith said his gut agreed with Reece’s gut, and it worked. Dunnaway struck out four batters and allowed two hits in three innings of relief work, as he picked up the win. At the plate, the senior gave the Chargers a 6-5 lead in the sixth on a two-run double.

“I just went out there confident in what I can do,” Dunnaway said. “It’s my last year. I can’t go down without a fight.”

Cornerstone fought Thursday, overcoming a 5-1 deficit early, despite strong hitting from Coosa Valley’s Whit Lovelady and Phillip Neal, who both had three hits.

“Cornerstone’s a scrappy bunch of boys. I knew we weren’t going to walk over them,” Lovelady said.

For Smith, being scrappy is one thing, but the power of prayer is another.

“I prayed last night that God would give them the strength for them not to be nervous and go play the game the way they know how to play it, and that’s what they did,” Smith said. “We want to make sure that God gets the credit for this, because he brought this little ole team together.”

The bottom of the sixth inning began for the Chargers with a leadoff bloop single to left by Chase Payne. Junior Cory Woodall followed by legging out a triple to open the scoring in the inning. Shaw drove in Woodall with a sacrifice fly to center, followed two hits later by Dunnway’s two-run double by to give the Chargers a 6-5 lead. Dunnaway scored an insurance run, as Henderson flew out to right field on a sacrifice.

Dunnaway recorded a strike out and fly ball before giving two Rebels a free pass in the seventh, but with two outs, he sealed the win.

Shaw said he started calling for Dunnaway’s fastball to end the game.

“I was calling all fastballs. I just wanted it done,” Shaw said. “I just wanted strikes … If they hit it, let them hit it. I didn’t want to go down on a bunch of walks.”

With two outs and two on, Lovelady had the chance to be the hero for the second-straight day. Only this time, he stood on deck as he watched Zach Chain fly out to right field to end the game and begin Cornerstone’s celebration.

“It was awful,” Lovelady said. “If he would have got on base, it would have been the same situation as last night. Zach hit the ball hard, it just went right to him. It wasn’t his fault.”

Mackin said watching his senior leader end his career on deck made him sick.

“If (Chain) could just get on, we were going to win this ball game,” Mackin said. “If anyone wanted to be up there, it was Whit. He’s such a good kid and such a good ball player. It’s tough.”

AISA BASEBALL FINALS, May 5-6

CLASS AAA

Glenwood (36-9) vs. Monroe Acad. (27-8); Game 1, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Huntingdon College; Game 2, noon, Thursday, Patterson Field, (Game 3, if necessary 30 minutes after Game 2.)

CLASS AA

Autauga Acad. (24-11) vs. Edgewood Acad. (29-7); Game 1: 3 p.m. Tuesday, Patterson Field; Game 2, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Patterson Field (Game 3, if necessary 30 minutes after Game 2.)

CLASS A

Cornerstone Chr. (23-4) vs. Abbeville Chr. (21-8-1); Game 1, noon Tuesday, Patterson Field; Game 2, 10 a.m. Wednesday, Patterson Field (Game 3, if necessary 30 minutes after Game 2.)