Whiteoak's Ian Griffith led the Wildcats at the plate at 4-for-4 with two runs and four RBI in their SHAC victory over Lynchburg-Clay Thursday. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Whiteoak's Ian Griffith led the Wildcats at the plate at 4-for-4 with two runs and four RBI in their SHAC victory over Lynchburg-Clay Thursday. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
DODSONVILLE — Thursday night was a night of championship success for the Whiteoak Wildcats, as they battled tough with the host Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs to rally late in the game for a 12-4 victory, clinching the 2021 Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division II baseball championship.

The Wildcats (10-3, 15-7) trailed the host Lynchburg-Clay squad by a 3-0 score after three innings, and then after the Wildcats scored two runs in the top of the fourth, LC’s lead was cut to a single run. From there, WHS took a 4-3 advantage after plating two runs in the top of the fifth, only to see the Mustangs tie the score with a run in their half of the fifth inning.

Then came the final two innings, and that is where Whiteoak took advantage of a couple miscues by the Mustangs, plus they got rolling themselves with a four-run sixth inning. They added four more runs in the top of the seventh for the SHAC win, their 10th SHAC victory of the season.

This season, Whiteoak has just one senior and one junior on their roster, with the rest of the team being sophomores and freshmen as they worked to win the program’s 10th conference championship, their first since 2019. Since 2000, the Wildcats have won an SHAC baseball championship seven times.

“This championship is very special, and going into the year you always want to win a championship, but we just wanted to first teach them the game and help make them mature adults on and off the field,” WHS head coach Chris Veidt said. “We have come a long way since game one, and I knew these guys were talented enough to win.

“In our three conference losses this year, we have lost them by a total of four runs. The guys earned this championship.”

For the game against Lynchburg-Clay (5-5, 6-9), the Wildcats totaled 14 hits, while LCHS had nine. The win on the mound went to Landon Barnett, who pitched four innings in relief, while the no-decision went to starting pitcher Luken Roades. The loss was charged to Austin Barnhill of LCHS, and also pitching in relief was Chase Smaltz.

“This was a pitchers’ duel for most of the game, and as for our guys, Luken threw 50 pitches for us and did well, and Landon came in and threw 55 pitches,” Veidt said. “With both being sophomores, they did a good job. They were very effective.”

Though WHS was strong at the plate in the latter half of the game, it was the host Mustangs who were scoring runs early on, tallying three runs in the bottom of the third for the aforementioned three-run lead.

The bottom of the third for LCHS began with Jacob Allen hitting a double to left field, followed by Brayden Simmons moving Allen to third base on a double as well. Barnhill followed with a bunt that saw Allen out at home, but Barnhill was safe at first base. Simmons and Barnhill scored on a single to centerfield by Smaltz.

With two outs, Luke Smith hit a two-out single past the shortstop to score Smaltz, giving the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.

WHS answered in the top of the fourth with two runs as Ian Griffith (4-for-4 with two runs, four RBI) drew a lead-off walk. Next, the first out of the inning was recorded, but that was followed with a double hit to centerfield by David Donohoo, plating Griffith. In the ensuing at-bat, Eli Roberts doubled to left field, driving in Donohoo for a score of 3-2.

Whiteoak tied the score at 3-3 in the top of the fifth when they began the inning with Luken Roades getting on base via error on a bunt. Roades eventually scored Whiteoak’s third run of the game when Barnett hit a line drive to the pitcher, allowing Roades to score the run.

WHS took the lead for the first time in the SHAC contest when Griffith doubled to centerfield, scoring Barnett for the 4-3 advantage.

Lynchburg-Clay tied the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth when Smaltz took home for the 4-4 score with two outs. Smaltz finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI.

Then came the two big innings for the Wildcats as they took complete control of the game. Scoring runs in the top of the sixth for WHS were Isaiah Rowe, Roades, Connor Butler and Barnett. In the sixth for Whiteoak, Rowe led off with a single, followed by a one-out walk by Roades. Butler took first base on an error, loading the bases for WHS with no outs.

Next was Barnett (2-for-5, three runs, four RBI) taking first on an error, scoring Rowe. Griffith singled to centerfield for two RBI as Roades and Butler rounded the bases for a 7-4 Whiteoak lead. The Wildcats added one more run in the sixth inning as Carson Emery singled to centerfield, scoring Barnett for a four-run lead at 8-4. Emery finished 4-for-5 with two RBI.

The top of the seventh saw Whiteoak put the game too far out of reach as the eventual SHAC champions scored four runs, all with two outs. After the first two batters of the inning were retired, Roades forced an eight-pitch walk, followed by Butler being hit by a pitch.

WHS then saw Barnett single to centerfield, scoring both Roades and Butler for a 10-4 lead. Next came a two-base hit by Griffith, scoring Barnett for a seven-run advantage. Griffith scored on a single to left field by Emery, putting the Wildcats ahead by eight runs.

“After we trailed 3-0, we started to be more selective at the plate and started hitting well,” Veidt said. “The pressure we apply on the base paths took a toll on them.”