HENDERSONVILLE — Oak Grove’s magical run came to an end one win shy of playing for a state championship.
The 13th-seeded Grizzlies fell behind early, as third-seeded West Henderson’s offense piled up runs in a hurry. And Oak Grove could never quite match the Falcons in falling 14-4 in five innings Friday night at West Henderson in the third game of the NCHSAA 3A West baseball regional championship series.
West Henderson, making its second state final appearance and first since winning the 1992 title, will face Greenville Rose, the top seed in the East, in next weekend’s state championship series.
“We ran into a bit of a buzzsaw,” Grizzlies coach Chase Mitchell said. “They swung it. We got behind early and just couldn’t bounce back from it.”
The Falcons (25-5) were in attack mode right from the start — their first three batters singled and they quickly led 1-0. A two-run double to right-center later in the inning gave them a 3-0 lead through one inning.
West Henderson — led by Lukas Kachilo with two hits, including a double, and two RBIs — added three in the second, one in each of the third and fourth innings and six in the fifth to finish it off via the mercy rule. The Falcons totaled 12 hits for the game.
“That’s baseball,” Mitchell said. “You’re going to run into teams that get hot at the right time. We didn’t have an answer at the plate tonight. We hurt ourselves defensively tonight, just like last night. But I’m proud of the seniors and how they battled all year.”
Oak Grove (19-11), making its first regional appearance, tried to keep pace early. A leadoff double by Bo Tiller followed by an RBI single by Kaden Hart pulled it within 3-1, and a two-run home run by Dawson Shelton kept it within 6-3 in the third.
Jake Smith added an RBI single in the fifth. But the Grizzlies, who also got a pair of hits from Keanan White, just couldn’t match the Falcons’ offensive onslaught. Nicky Stanko got the pitching win in four innings while Shelton took the loss in 2 2/3 innings.
“I know our team’s going to compete,” Mitchell said. “They’re going to bring it even when their backs are against the wall. That’s the mentality and the focus we’ve had as a program. Our seniors taught our underclassmen how to battle, that’s for sure.”
Oak Grove — which had won 13 straight, including the series opener Tuesday, prior to falling Thursday — struggled with a trio of untimely errors early and allowed nine walks and three hit-by-pitches. But, more than that, the Falcons hit the ball well.
And the Grizzlies, who rallied to their second straight Mid-Piedmont Conference tournament championship in the midst of their winning streak, concluded their postseason run as seniors Brayden Bowman, Chase Robertson, Ethan Yarbrough, Lane Kimmer, Landon Dixon, Jarred Lindholm and Tiller finished their careers.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Mitchell said. “Our backs were against the wall the whole year. We started off — we were 3-6 at one point and 6-9 at another point. We found a way to win some ballgames and found a way to bounce back from a little bit of adversity.
“This definitely laid the foundation for the future and what we expect and where we expect to be as a program.”
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