PLYMOUTH | So close.
Three outs from a Class 3A regional championship, Griffith saw Western rally to force extra innings, where the defending state champions scored in the eighth to pull out a 6-5 victory at Bill Nixon Field.
It marked the second year in a row that Western bumped Griffith after a semifinal win over Andrean.
“They’re the defending state champs for a reason, and we played right with them,” Griffith coach Brian Jennings said. “We probably gave them too many freebies, walk-wise, early on especially, but we continued to battle.
“We played right with them. We did what we needed to do, but in the end they got one more hit than we did.”
Marcus Pingleton plated the winning run for Western (23-5) with a single.
Matt Colomes had three hits and drove in three for Griffith (19-10-1).
Brett Brinkley reached base all four times at the plate and scored three runs for the Panthers. He also made a diving catch to end the third that saved at least one run.
“He made a helluva play to keep us with the momentum, and he’s been a sparkplug for us all season long,” Jennings said.
Western, which had not had any success against Griffith reliever Austin Brown, put up two runs in the seventh on two walks, a single, a fielding error in the outfield and a fielder’s choice.
Colomes drove in Brinkley with a two-out single in the fifth to put Griffith up 5-3. Brinkley drew a one-out walk and then stole second to get into scoring position.
The bottom part of the Griffith order started a two-out rally in the second. Kody Hoese and Robbie Hernandez started with back-to-back singles. Leadoff hitter Brinkley then walked to load the bases.
Josh Terzarial struck out, but the pitch got past the catcher and scored a run. Colomes followed with a single off the second base umpire that scored another run, and a passed ball plated the third run of the inning to lead 4-2.
Griffith graduates five seniors from the team. They won the school’s first sectional title since 2007 during their tenure and followed it up with another this season.
“They brought the program back to respectability again in getting us some hardware,” Jennings said. “These guys followed their lead, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”