Varsity baseball charges back to beat Johnson on Senior Night

Late pitching the difference as Chaps conclude the season with 7-6 win
Julianna Wolff
Infielder senior Sage Sanders swings during the final regular season game at Westlake’s Baseball Diamond against Johnson High School Friday, April 26. Sanders would go on to score the winning run for the Chaparrals in a 7-6 victory.

Tension sat in the air as second baseman sophomore Austin Knox stepped up to the plate with the game on the line. He went on to lace a pitch to third base, which was just enough to score third baseman senior Sage Sanders and edge out a senior night win for the Chaparrals.

Last season, the Chaps mounted a memorable run to the state semifinals. The 11-1 loss they suffered there was not a fitting end to the dominant 40-5 record they posted. While this season, by comparison, has been a disappointment with the Chaps finishing at a 19-12-1 record and missing the playoffs, a comeback victory against Johnson High School served as a bright end to the year.

Out to avenge an extra innings loss to Johnson earlier in the week which eliminated the Chaps from playoff contention, the varsity baseball team fought back from a 6-2 deficit with some excellent pitching and capped off the comeback when first baseman freshman Ethan Armbruster hit an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the 7th to send the game to extra innings. From there, the Chaps whittled away, leaving the bases loaded twice before finally pushing through the winning run in the 11th inning.

”I thought we pitched really well, all of our pitchers did a great job,” head coach JT Blair said. “We had some timely hits today, it was awesome. It was a battle of attrition, we just waited them out and won it, it was a great game for the Chaps.”

The Chaps came out firing to start the game, capitalizing on some wild pitching to spray in two runs in the first inning. However, they left two on the bases, a theme which would nearly come back to bite them later on.

Johnson immediately fought back, hanging up a three-spot which included multiple line drives into the left field gap. The Chaps survived the second inning with a clutch double play, but the Johnson barrage continued. They used smart base running and a wave of singles to throw another three runs onto the scoreboard, and make the game 6-2. The Westlake bats cooled off, and the chances of ending the season on a high note looked slim by the end of the third inning.

However, pitcher senior Chance Covert locked down in his final home appearance, and gave the Chaps the opportunity to come back. Neither team was able to register a hit in the fourth inning, but after another weak inning from the Johnson bats, Westlake punched back by using small ball to cut the lead to two runs, moving a runner forward with a bunt single, and using those two runners to score on a wild pitch and a sacrifice ground-out. 

After a Johnson two-out double in the sixth, Covert exited with eight straight scoreless outs. Sophomore Hayes Brodhead entered the game and struck out the side in a tight situation. Catcher junior Hudson Byrd stepped up in the bottom half of the inning, slicing the lead to one with an RBI double. However, the Chaps had a pinch runner thrown out at second, and the inning ended with a drilled ball straight to the Johnson pitcher.

With the game on the line, the Chaps pitching stepped up once again, with Brodhead retiring three consecutive Johnson batters. With their backs against the wall, the Chaparral offense managed to do just enough. Shortstop senior Theo GIllen walked, and stole second, before he was batted home by Armbruster to tie the game, and all of a sudden, Johnson’s 4 run advantage had vanished and the teams were headed for extra innings.

Brodhead continued his dominance with another spotless inning in the top of the eighth. The Chaps quickly loaded the bases with no outs, but after multiple strikeouts on 3-2 counts, the inning was ended with raucous Johnson celebrations as they escaped defeat by the skin of their teeth.

The momentum in the air seemed to shift in favor of the visiting side, but yet again their bats were shut down, as Brodhead capped off a 3 ⅓ inning outing which included only one hit and no runs on the board.

Once again, the Chap bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning, garnering runners on first and second with one out. Knox blazed a single to left field, and while for a second it looked to be a walk-off, senior Jack Casteel was held up at third, and so the Chaps had the bases loaded once more. Yet again, they failed to capitalize, racking up their sixth runner left on base in two extra innings.

By comparison to the first two extra innings, the tenth inning was a sleepy affair, with neither side being able to put up a hit. 

However, the fireworks resumed in the 11th inning, and this time Johnson was the one to load the bases, but a two-out strikeout ended their hopes of taking the lead. Third baseman senior Sage Sanders doubled and proceeded to steal third to put the pressure on Johnson. Knox finally broke the tie, grounding out but giving Sanders enough time to scoot home and earn the Chaps the winning run to cap off their season.

As the players celebrated in right field, a sense of resilience sat in the air. After a rough season, the Chaps buckled down in a tough situation to secure a win and something bright to send the season on.

 “As long as our guys understand that they keep fighting, they keep grinding, then we’re never out of the game,” Blair said. “That’s what we did in [tonight’s] game, we were down [2-6 but] we kept fighting back.”

And with the last game of the year wrapped up, the Chaps turn their attention to the 2025 season with a little bit of rejuvenation after an encouraging final performance.

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