ROME On one of the worst days of Chad Browns life, his South Lewis baseball family helped the Falcons coach earn a few hours of respite from an unfathomable loss.
Just hours after Brown learned of the death of his father, Shawn Loomis delivered a go-ahead inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Jason Martin worked out of numerous jams to hurl a complete game as top-seeded South Lewis claimed the Section 3 Class C-1 crown with a heart-stopping 3-2 victory over No. 2 Pulaski at DeLutis Field.
Afterward, Brown was very emotional and thankful at the same time about his loss and his teams gutty performance on a day hell never forget.
Its been a long, tough day for sure, said Brown, whose learned of the death Wednesday morning. But these kids showed today why I love them. They were playing for something other than themselves, and it showed.
The players dedicated the win to the Brown family afterward.
The Falcons (17-1), who play Class C-2 champion Bishop Grimes (15-2) for the overall C title at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Syracuses NBT Bank Stadium, rallied from a 5-1 deficit Tuesday to beat Sauquoit valley 6-5 in the semifinals.
Wednesday, the Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two innings then saw the Blue Devils (13-4) tie the score with single runs in the fourth and fifth.
Martin, a senior and the heart and soul of this team, then worked out of jams in each of the final three innings a day after gaining the win in relief.
Loomis, another senior, recorded the biggest hit of the year when he flashed around the bases after drilling a liner into right-center field with one out in the sixth.
I cant imagine what coach was going through today, said Martin, who allowed seven hits, struck out 11 and walked two. We just couldnt let him down when he needed us the most.
After visiting his father over the weekend in North Carolina, Brown returned home to coach his team the past few days with a heavy heart.
Initially, they gave him six months to live, Brown said about his dad, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just weeks ago. But it was just three weeks. I told him I would stay with him if he wanted. He told me to go be with my players.
Loomis also scored the first South Lewis run in the bottom of the first as he walked, stole second, took third on a fly out and scored on Martins ground out.
South Lewis made it 2-0 in the second as Naythan Cobb reached on an infield hit, stole second and scored on a wild throw after getting in a rundown between second and third.
After that, however, the Falcons were stymied by Pulaski right-hander Cody Mosher, who did not allow another hit until the sixth.
We looked at too many good pitches, especially third strikes, Brown said. At this level, you have to be more aggressive and try to put the bat on the ball more often.
Fortunately, Martin was also up to the task. He allowed only two baserunners through the first three innings before running into trouble in the Pulaski fourth.
The Blue Devils loaded the bases with none out before Erik Oakes drove in a run on a two-strike suicide squeeze bunt. But catcher Lucas Kelly tagged out another runner on a second failed squeeze play, and Martin fanned the final two batters of the inning.
When you leave guys on base like that, it really upsets the other team, Martin said. And at the same time, it gives you a real emotional lift.
Martin wild-pitched home the tying run in the Pulaski sixth. But again, he worked out of trouble by leaving runners on second and third.
After Martin struck out the side in the top of the sixth, Loomis took center stage. With one out, he drilled a two-strike Mosher fastball in between the center and right fielders. As he rounded second, Loomis picked up coach Brown and saw him waving him home.
When I saw coach waving, I knew I could score, Loomis said. I wasnt sure where the relay was, so I dove as far as I could.
Shawns our fastest runner so I was sending him all the way, Brown said.
Pulaski loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh. But South Lewis second baseman Nathan Pleskach threw out Dillon Hess from his knees on a tough grounder for the third out, and the Falcons sprinted out of the dugout to celebrate.
God had to be looking down on us the last couple of days, Martin said. How else do you explain what happened?
BISHOP GRIMES 9, BEAVER RIVER 0
The defending Class C-2 and overall C champion Beavers couldnt duplicate the South Lewis performance in the first game, seeing their season come to an end with a lackluster performance.
Top-seeded Beaver River (15-3) managed three hits off Grimes righty Chris Schad and were uncharacteristically sloppy in the field in one of their worst overall performances of the season.
You can accept losing if you play well and the other team is much better, Beaver River coach Don Neddo said. But to perform so poorly in a big game is tough to take. Hopefully, it doesnt detract from a great season.
Grimes scored single runs in the first and second, and two more in the fourth off Beaver River starter and loser Christian Widrick.
The Beavers committed four errors and several other mental mistakes to help the Cobras (15-2) score four unearned runs.
Schad finished with nine strikeouts, allowing only a bloop single by Kyle Steiner in the second and a single by Brett Neddo leading off the sixth.