LOUISVILLE -- Westwood baseball coach Al Timmerman didn't have to give a long, drawn-out speech to his kids about staying focused after their win in Game 1 of their best-of-three series Friday against rival Thomas Jefferson.
"They already knew," Timmerman said Saturday. "They knew TJ wasn't going to roll over and give it to us. They knew they just had to keep doing what they'd been doing."
Well, consider it done.
The Wildcats are back in the GISA Class A Final Four for the first time since 2008 after sweeping the series Saturday in Louisville with a 5-4 win in Game 2, avoiding a Game 3 and allowing Westwood to get on the bus for the four-hour ride back to Camilla and be home in time for dinner.
But it wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination.
After two scoreless innings to start the game -- helped by solid pitching performances from Westwood's Caleb Morrell and Thomas Jefferson's Will Johnson -- the Wildcats watched helplessly as TJ posted four runs in the top of the third inning to put the Wildcats in a deep hole early in the game. Westwood was the home team in Game 2, per GISA rules.
But Timmerman said he didn't have to remind his team what was at stake when they returned to the dugout after that seemingly disastrous inning.
"The guys knew we'd been hitting the ball well up to that point, but we were just hitting everything right at them," Timmerman said. "The guys just stayed calm and they knew our chance at a big inning was coming soon."
It came two innings later.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, eighth-grader Chason Worsham led off with an infield single, followed by Kaleb Bentley reaching on an error as Worsham advanced all the way to third. One batter later, Morrell came to the plate and roped a double into the outfield, scoring Worsham and Bentley to make it 4-2. Mason Worsham, Chason's older brother and one of the team's captains, then was hit by a pitch, followed by a Jake Edore single that scored Morrell and Mason Worsham to tie the game. Douglas Nobles, one of the team's big offseason pickups after he transferred from Baconton, then stepped to the plate and drove in what proved to be the game-winning run when his infield grounder sacrificed to the pitcher and brought home Edore for a 5-4 lead that Westwood wouldn't give back.
"Caleb just shut 'em down from there. He went three-up, three-down in the sixth inning and then we turned a double play that took runners off the base and gave us two outs (after two batters) in the top of the seventh," said Timmerman, whose team improved to 16-4 and will face Region 2, No. 1 seed Memorial on the road in Savannah next week in the Final Four. Game times have yet to be decided.
Morrell pitched a complete game, allowed just five hits and struck out seven, while Johnson allowed five hits and struck out five, also in a complete-game effort.
Morrell and Edore both finished 2-for-3.
The trip back to the Final Four is redemption for Westwood, which suffered two down seasons after its last trip to the state semis in 2008, going a combined 3-29 between 2009-10. Also in the Final Four are two familiar foes from Westwood's Region 3-A: local rivals Randolph Southern and Crisp Academy.
"We're excited to be back. The kids never gave up (when we got down 4-0) and we just waited for our big inning," Timmerman said. "But now that we've won, it's back to work. We've got to stay focused and (keep our eye on the prize)."