Deerfield starting pitcher Weston King was throwing fire Tuesday during the Knights’ region championship game against Westfield. King pitched six scoreless innings, allowed just three hits and struck out two during Deerfield’s 7-0 shutout victory that clinched the 3-AAA crown. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Weston King almost didn’t have time to dream about pitching in Tuesday’s GISA Region 3-AAA title game.
Deerfield-Windsor’s players and coaches didn’t find out they would play for the region crown until late Monday night, and it didn’t take them long to get ready for it.
King threw six shutout innings Tuesday in a tiebreaker for first place to determine the region champ, and the Knights took the title from defending state champion Westfield, 7-0, to claim the top 3-AAA seed in the state playoffs, which begin Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a best-of-three series in Albany against Arlington Christian. Game 2 will be played Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with Game 3 to follow, if necessary.
Deerfield (19-3) has now won four region titles in head coach Rod Murray’s five years, and this one was just as sweet as all the others, particularly because of how it happened.
“We seem to be finding a lot of different ways to win them,” said Murray, whose Knights finished second in the region to Westfield last season and then lost to the Hornets in the state title series.
The single-game region tiebreaker had to be played after Westfield was upset by Tiftarea on Monday night in Perry, leaving the Knights and Hornets tied at 8-2 in region play.
The two teams split during the regular season, so the only tiebreaker was a one-game playoff to determine a region champ.
Murray and Westfield head coach Rob Fitzpatrick then met in Americus to flip a coin that would determine the home site for the region tiebreaker game.
The Knights won the toss and then handily won the region thanks to King’s six innings of work and 13 hits from the Knights’ offense.
King allowed just three hits and struck out two by keeping Westfield (14-13) off balance at the plate. The lanky righthander had no idea he’d be pitching in the region title game until the last minute, and even then he thought it was a rouse.
“I got a phone call (Monday) night,” King said of first hearing about Tuesday’s game. “I didn’t believe him. I had to call somebody else. When (Westfield) opened the door for us, we wanted to go through it and that’s exactly what we did.”
Knights senior Lindsey Short helped ignite the offense with a solo homer in the first inning less than a day after thinking DWS would be the two seed entering the playoffs.
“He gave me a pretty one,” Short said of the home run offering. “A (pretty) mistake.”
Like King, Short and his teammates didn’t find out they would get another shot at Westfield until 10 p.m. Monday.
“We were at dinner last night and getting text messages just trying to find out (the score between Tiftarea and Westfield),” Short said. “As soon as we found out we would get to play for it, we were pumped.”
Short, Harris Webb and Sam Shellhaas each had two hits for the Knights. Davis Hines went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while King added a two-run double in the fifth to give Deerfield a 6-0 lead. Webb added two runs and an RBI.
Murray decided to throw King on Tuesday with the state playoffs looming later this week, while Westfield didn’t start either of its top arms. Westfield starter William Amos allowed three runs and seven hits in three innings, while Garrett Brown (three runs, three hits) and Caleb Weaver (one run, three hits) each threw two innings in relief.
Murray, though, said King would be fine and might be available for the first-round playoff series Friday.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys we feel like we can put out there and compete,” Murray said of the Knights’ pitching depth. “You want to win a region championship if you get a chance. Our strategy was to win it.”
Deerfield’s players took a few pictures, relished another region championship and went home with the top seed on their minds — not to mention a little bit of revenge against the team that ended their region championship streak a year ago.
“We lost it last year, so this is special,” King said.