COURTLAND — In a season of firsts, Warhill's baseball team snagged its biggest one yet on Wednesday. The Lions beat previously unbeaten Southampton 6-4 in the Region I tournament semifinals to become the first boys athletic team in school history to earn a Group AA state tournament berth.
The Lions (19-4) had become the first team at the school to repeat as a Bay Rivers District champion, in addition to winning the program's first district tournament title. Warhill will attempt to add another boys first on Friday, winning a regional title, when it hosts Culpeper in the championship game at 6:30 p.m.
"We didn't want to be done," said Blake Wills, who used a nasty curveball to survive two late Southampton charges and pitch a complete game. "We want to go as far as we can and win states."
Lions third baseman Michael Brumfield, who helped Wills significantly with two defensive gems in the sixth inning, said, "Oh my God, this feels great. It's a relief to make the state tournament, the best feeling I've ever had."
The Indians (16-1) led 1-0 after an inning as Hayden Spalding led off with a double, advanced on an errant pickoff attempt and scored on Mason Wright's groundout. After two lethargic innings at the plate, Warhill cranked up the bats in scoring four runs in the top of the third off of Southampton starter Spalding.
Luke Patterson started the rally with one out by reaching second on a single and error. Pat Daley and Hunter Hux followed with consecutive singles, Daly's driving in Patterson and Hux's driving in Daly.
Wills walked, before Thomas Richardson reached on an infield single to score Hux. Brumfield singled to right with two outs to score Wills and make it 4-1.
The Lions got only one hit in the final four innings off of three relievers. Southampton cut the lead to 4-2 in fourth, when Jake Pope reached on a wild pitch after striking out and scored on a Warhill error.
Warhill rallied for two runs with two outs in the sixth to push the lead to 6-2. The Lions took advantage of two walks, a Southampton error and Wills' RBI single.
Southampton, which had only two hits off of Wills in the first five innings, started the bottom of the sixth with four in a row to cut the deficit to 6-4 — a single by Pope, an RBI double by Tanner Winters, a single by Jack Bunn and an RBI single by Josh Riddick.
Although Southampton had runners on first and third with no outs, they would not score again because Brumfield made consecutive great plays to get outs on grounders, holding the runner at third both times. On the second, he dove to knock down a hard grounder by Zach Vann.
Wills ended the inning with runners at second third by getting Hunter Peck on a called third strike with the count full. Lions coach Joe Henzel had Wills stick with his curve and, after giving up two singles in the seventh, the senior got the final two outs, one by strikeout and the last on a fly ball.
"They're a fastball hitting team, so we didn't want to feed into that," Henzel said. "This (state tournament berth) means a lot to our school."
WARHILL 6, SOUTHAMPTON 4
Warhill 004, 002, 0 — 6 7 3
Southampton 100, 102, 0 — 4 8 4
WP: Wills (7-1). LP: Spalding. Standouts: Warhill, Hux 2-3; Southampton, Spalding 2-4 (double), Pope 2-3. Records: Warhill 19-4, Southampton 16-1.