Deerfield starting pitcher Coleman Butler and the Knights’ staff struggled mightily Friday, giving up nine runs on nine hits, eight walks, three hit batters against Brookwood in a 9-2 loss. The defeat puts Deerfield in a 1-0 hole heading to today’s do-or-die Game 2, which will begin at 1 p.m. at DWS. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Buried in the frustration of Friday’s 9-2 loss to Brookwood, the Deerfield Knights found relief: They won’t have to face Brookwood ace Jordan Bradshaw again.
That was about the only good news to come out of Deerfield on Friday as the Knights dropped the opener of the best-of-three GISA Class AAA Final 4, collecting just two runs and six hits off the crafty left-hander.
“All I can think about is tomorrow is another day,” said Deerfield senior Weston King, who denied Bradshaw a shutout in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out, two-run single. “You have to tip your hat to (Bradshaw). He got up there and battled. I’m not even sure he had his best stuff, but he battled. We are going to see two right-handers (today), and that’s what we mainly see throughout the season.”
There’s still some hope for the Knights (17-10), who were riding momentum from last weekend’s thrilling sweep of rival Westfield in the quarterfinals — a pair of wins that suggested there was something magical about this team led by nine seniors.
The only magic on the diamond Friday was being flung out of Bradshaw’s left hand.
“Jordan pitched a heck of a game against us (Friday),” Deerfield coach Rod Murray said. “He kept pounding the strike zone and pitched seven strong innings. He is a tough one up there.”
Deerfield’s pitchers, on the other hand, had a day to forget.
Starter Coleman Butler, who shouldered the loss, lasted just four innings and gave up three hits and three runs, while reliever Austin Murphy pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed three hits and six runs. Will Akins pitched the final 1 2/3 innings and kept Brookwood off the scoreboard.
The Warriors (26-4) got most of their base runners without lifting the bats off their shoulders. Butler and Murphy each walked four, while all three DWS pitchers combined to hit three batters.
King will take the mound today for Game 2 and will attempt to recapture the momentum for a Deerfield team that thinks it has a shot to win the program’s first state title in 10 years. If necessary, a Game 3 will be played immediately after.
“In a three-game series, a lot can happen,” King said. “You are going to have some good days and some bad days. The team that wins it will be the team that battles through it.”
Butler, who pitched brilliantly in Game 1 of the quarterfinals against Westfield, looked strong in the first four innings, allowing one hit and no runs. But the Warriors jumped on the right-handed senior in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs and knocking him out of the game.
Murphy took the mound next and got Brookwood’s Byron Strickland to immediately hit a soft line drive to third base, where the ball skipped off the top of Butler’s glove, allowing one run to score. Brookwood plated four runs in the fifth and then five more in the sixth when Murphy gave up two hits and a pair of walks. Murphy had a chance to escape the sixth when a sharply hit ground ball was hit to third, but instead of turning an inning-ending double play, Butler’s throw went into center field to start Brookwood’s rally.
“Those could have been big momentum plays and helped with damage control, but at the same time this is a hard game,” Murray said. “Sometimes you get those plays, and sometimes you don’t. Last weekend (against Westfield) we got our share of them, and hopefully (today) we get some more of them.”
The Knights had their chances to score in the first four innings, putting men in scoring position in the first and third innings, but the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters — King and Butler — went 0-for-4 to strand four runners on base.
“We had our chances early on, and we didn’t cash in, and we can just hope we get other opportunities in that situation (today),” Murray said. “Maybe we can do a little better job of situational hitting.”
The Knights finally broke up Bradshaw’s shutout in the bottom of the seventh when King smacked a double to right field to score Kh’Ron McClain and Davis Hines.
“9-2 sounds a whole lot better than 9-0. The thing you can pull from that is that we didn’t just give up,” King said. “We didn’t just fold and go three-up, three-down. We kept battling, and I’m proud of us for that.”
Even with a 9-0 lead, Bradshaw curiously pitched the final two innings to stretch his pitch-count to 115. He still has three innings left under GISA rules, but because of his work load Friday, Brookwood coach Ken Johnson ruled him out for today’s doubleheader.
“He will not go (today),” Johnson said. “He has thrown too many pitches. If we would have got out of there with 80 pitches (Friday), then we would have probably used him (today). With 100 and some, I won’t do that to him.”
Senior Byron Strickland will take the mound for today’s first game, but Murray said he is concentrating more on fixing his own team rather than focusing on who the opposing pitcher will be.
“We are still worried about the things that we can control,” Murray said. “We know they have some good arms behind (Bradshaw), and we have to go out there and battle (today) and do the little things right no matter who is on the mound.”
And that magical season that is supposed to end with a state championship trophy is far from over.
“We still love our team,” Murray said. “We know this is going to take three games, and Brookwood knows it’s going to be a long day of baseball (today). We still believe in ourselves, and we still believe we can get it done.”