Herndon wins in 10, Freedom storms back to set up Class 6 baseball finale

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To reach the Virginia state finals, Herndon had to play more playoff baseball than anyone. Entering Friday’s semifinal against Colgan at Champe High, the Hornets had played in extra innings in their previous three games.

And when Friday’s seventh inning ended in a strikeout, Herndon was again set to play longer than anticipated. The common thread through every extra-innings contest was a victory for the Hornets — and that part held true again, too.

Senior Matt Neach delivered a walk-off single in the 10th inning as Herndon (19-7) clinched its first appearance in a Class 6 championship game with a 2-1 upset victory over Colgan (25-2).

“The guys really just want to keep playing with each other as a team,” Coach Steve Frank. “Forty innings in four games is pretty unusual. To our advantage, we’re not panicking in those situations.”

Eleven innings and 4½ hours later, Herndon wins region baseball title

Colgan had been dominant this spring, allowing opposing teams to score multiple runs in just three games before Friday. The Sharks had reached a double-digit run total 16 times. And they never experienced extra innings.

But Colgan could not keep pace with Herndon’s pitching tandem of Connor Godshalk and Kyle Henson, who elevated their games when it most mattered.

“Everyone is talking about big, bad Colgan,” Henson said. “They couldn’t get it done, just couldn’t get it done.”

Henson was coming off a handful of shortened outings, and Godshalk was making his first start in more than a month after an illness. The pair split the 10 innings, with Godshalk striking out seven in the first five and Henson striking out eight. The duo limited mistakes and combined for just three walks.

“Connor Godshalk coming out really out of nowhere to carry the team … is unbelievable,” Henson said. “It really gave me confidence, gave the whole team confidence that we were in this game.”

When Neach came to the plate in the 10th, the Hornets felt good about the situation. After all, the star first baseman’s nickname is “Mr. Clutch.”

Mr. Clutch was ready for the big moment, smacking a well-hit ball to the outfield.

“A lot of teams aren’t prepared in those situations,” Neach said. “We’ve really toughened up mentally, and we’re really comfortable in those situations and ready if it happens again tomorrow.”

The Hornets will play Freedom (South Riding) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Champe after the Eagles staged a huge comeback in an 8-6 win over Lake Braddock.

Freedom’s starting pitcher, Mason Butash, failed to record an out against Lake Braddock, which scored six runs against him to knock him off the mound.

But Butash got the Eagles back in the game with his bat.

The junior went 4 for 4 with three doubles as Freedom chipped away at the early deficit. It all came to a head in the seventh, when the Eagles struck with a five-run inning to move ahead.

“It was rough,” Butash said. “I knew I had to make up for it some way, so obviously I came back with that.”

Pitchers Ryan Morrison and Ryan Marohn combined to hold the Bruins quiet after Butash’s nightmare start.

Marohn was stellar in the final three innings. And Morrison’s ability to get the Eagles through the first four allowed Freedom to stay in the game.

“We don’t play with a time here,” Coach Mark Wrighte said. “If they’re going to let us play all seven innings, we’re going to get our opportunities at the plate.”

This is the first trip to the state finals for Freedom (23-2).

Lake Braddock (19-8) was looking to follow up on its state championship from 2019, though this team exceeded expectations by reaching this stage.

First-year coach Johann Tiamson’s club won four of its previous five games on walk-off hits. It couldn’t deliver in the waning innings Friday.

“It’s more than I ever expected,” Tiamson said. “They believed in themselves, and we all stuck together.”

Class 3: Meridian knocked out

Meridian’s season ended with a 5-4 loss to Abingdon in the Class 3 semifinals at Spotsylvania High.

The Mustangs led 4-2 in the sixth inning before Abingdon rallied and used savvy base running to take the lead.

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