Fans, players and coaches of down-and-out baseball teams have been uttering “it ain’t over till it’s over” for decades. Most times, though, the quote made famous by Yogi Berra in the 1970s is just empty words.
But occasionally something pops up like Thursday night’s series-deciding game between St. John’s Christian and Wardlaw to breathe new life into the Yogi-ism.
Down to their final out and trailing by four runs, the Cavaliers put together an improbable five-run rally to stun visiting Wardaw Academy, 9-8, winning the first-round playoff series 2-1 to keep the season alive.
“All year long we’ve had adversity and answered back,” St. John’s Christian coach Thomas Brittle said. “Early in the year we lost a lot of games but we were losing them in those situations with games on the line and runners in scoring position. I told our guys then those were the games that when we get to the playoffs we’re going to be comfortable and confident that we could come out ahead like we did tonight.”
St John’s Christian (9-9) moves on to the second round to tangle with Dorchester Academy, which defeated the Cavaliers twice in the regular season.
Wardlaw, meanwhile, left town thinking thoughts of what might have been.
The Cavaliers trailed 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh and the first two batters grounded out and flew out, an inauspicious start to a comeback. It was about to get better.
Evan Mizzell singled to left field, Cooper Moorer walked and AJ Legette was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Collin Robertson as thoughts of winning became more realistic.
“I had tons of faith in my guys,” Brittle said.
Robertson knocked one through the infield to cut Wardlaw’s lead in half. The Patriots intentionally walked Josh Legnard, who had a solo homer earlier, to load the bases again, this time for Bryce Butler.
Butler worked a full count and delivered a ball back up the middle that turned into the game-winner when Wardlaw’s centerfielder couldn’t come up with it cleanly. Everybody was moving on the pitch and Legnard’s pinch runner, Nick Jimenez, slid in with the winning run after sprinting around from first base.
“It’s a sweet, sweet way to win it,” Brittle said. “This one is up there. I had some walk-off hits when I was at Clemson. As a coach it’s a different feeling but the feeling I have right now feels just like when I had those walk-offs at Clemson.”
Mizzell, Robertson and Butler collected two hits each. Butler had three RBIs and Mizzell scored twice in support of winning pitcher Connor Lockliear.
Lockliear relieved Legette in the fourth and allowed two earned runs and three hits over four innings, striking out two batters.
St. John’s Christian won the first game of the Wardlaw series, 5-4, on April 29 and lost 17-6 in Johnston the next night.
The DA series starts on on Monday, May 6 (after press time). Game 2 is at SJCA on Tuesday and a third game would be on May 9 at DA.