MONTICELLO -- Zach Beggs wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
With his team clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 of the best-of-three GISA Class AA baseball championship series Saturday, Piedmont head coach Daniel Funt made the call and put Beggs on the mound.
Beggs, who pitched a one-hit shutout Friday against Windsor, closed the Knights out, giving the Cougars their second straight championship with a 9-7 victory.
“I was hoping to get the chance to be on the mound, even though I woke up pretty sore,” said Beggs, a five-year starter for the Cougars who was also on the mound for last year’s final out. “I just wanted a chance, and once I got on the mound I felt fine. Windsor is a great baseball team, but I think our team wanted it a little bit more.”
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Playing as the visiting team in Game 2 after winning Friday’s opener 4-0, Piedmont quickly loaded the bases against Windsor starter Travis Cumbie but could score only one run on a double-play groundout.
Windsor, which was shut out for the first time this season in Friday’s game, got the bats rolling early against Piedmont starter Michael Davis. Josh Brooks led off with a single and moved to second on another single by Landry Rustin. After a walk to Jonathan Osborn, William Owenby scored Brooks with a sacrifice fly. Austin Thomas then singled in Rustin, and, after another out, Cumbie singled in two more runs to give Windsor a 4-1 lead.
Cumbie struggled with his control the entire game, walking 11 in his 6-1/3 innings of work, and he got in major trouble in the third inning when he walked five batters en route to allowing three runs that tied the game. Brock Carter drove in two runs in the third, while Michael Edwards drove in another on a bases-loaded walk.
Davis, meanwhile, had settled down for the Cougars, allowing only one hit in the next four innings, and not giving up a run.
“I never felt like I got into a groove, but I just went out and tried to keep my team in the game,” said Davis, a Darton College signee. “I felt like I was throwing the ball OK, but after the first inning, I just tried to settle myself down and throw a lot of strikes. I had faith that my team could put runs on the board, and it was my job to try and hold them down.”
Piedmont grabbed the lead in the fifth inning when Edwards hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Luke Andress, who had been hit by a pitch and advanced to third on two more walks.
Cumbie battled throughout the game and set the Cougars down in order in the sixth, and he was a batter away from getting out of a jam in the seventh. But two infield hits in a row opened the flood gates, as Piedmont scored four times in the inning to up its lead to 9-4.
Windsor had one final rally. After Brooks walked and Rustin singled, Osborn connected on a three-run homer to left center to cut the lead to 9-7. Beggs, however, closed it out to give Piedmont the win.
“I am so proud of this team and the way they fought through the early adversity,” said Funt, who is in his first year as the head coach after being an assistant for seven years at Piedmont. “I have been blessed with a great class of six seniors, and they showed us the way. But give credit to Windsor, they battled us all the way.”
For Windsor head coach Tyler Brown, who coached his final game with the Knights as he takes over at his alma mater Stratford, it was an emotional weekend.
“I love these kids and they gave me everything they had, and they will always be my team,” Brown said. “They showed how tough they were when we scored three times in the last inning, and that’s the way they have been all year.
“I thought about taking Travis out a few times, but he pretty much told me that he was fine and I wasn’t taking him out. It was just a gutty effort by our entire baseball team.”