Somerset High School senior Chance Stayton hit a two-RBI triple to the right corner wall to vault the Briar Jumpers into a 10-9 lead over the Danville Admirals, and giving the Briar Jumpers their first regional baseball crown in almost 12 years.
"I told the players before the game that we were going to face adversity and how we react to it is either going to make us or break us," Somerset baseball coach Phil Grundy stated. "We swung the bats the entire game, and we put pressure on them (Danville) in every inning. Danville is one heck of a ball club and they have won like 34 games this year."
With both teams' pitching staffs literally exhausted, the two 12th Region heavyweights went toe-to-toe for the entirety of the game. Except for a 2-2 lead after two innings, Danville lead every other inning until the seventh inning when Stayton broke the game open with his two-run triple.
"Chance Stayton's hit was huge, and we needed him to finish the game for us," Grundy stated. "For Chance to come up and do that and get that extra run was huge. I would have been happy with just getting in one run, but he got us two runs. He is a gamer and he showed up when we needed him to."
The Admirals took their biggest lead of the game of 9-6 after the fifth inning, but the Briar Jumpers scored two runs in the sixth and two more runs in the seventh to pull out the 12th Region title game. Meanwhile, sophomore ace reliever Dakota Acey held the Admirals scoreless in the last two innings of the region championship game.
"We have been building all year, we had a tough schedule and took some lumps early in the year," Grundy added. "I can't say enough about Dakota Acey's 'bulldog' work on the mound in relief. Hank (McArthur) comes in and saves us, and Dylan (Burton) battled in there. Everyone on the team made the big plays when we needed them."
Trailing 9-6 in the sixth inning, Dylan Burton doubled to the left field wall to score Alex Ham. Cole Reynolds doubled down the left field line to score Burton to close Danville's lead to 9-8.
In the seventh inning, Kade Grundy and Gavin Stephens got on base via walks and Stayton brought them both home on his triple with two outs. Stayton hit a hard line drive shot to the right corner of the field that got by the Danville right fielder. Grundy and Stephens scored with ease, while Stayton slide headfirst into third for the triple.
"I went up to the plate and tried to do what the team needed me to do," Stayton said. "I was just wanting to tie score up by driving in a run. When I was walking to the plate, my family looked at me and said, 'I believe, you believe', which was one of (his late cousin) Maddie's (Hannah) saying was while she was on the field and I did it all for her."
Danville went down in order in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure the Briar Jumpers' 12th Region title.
"Our motto this year was to go out with a band," Stayton said. "When when you face adversity, just fight back. All our players fight back and never give up. We have faced adversity all season, and we face adversity in this game."
The game started off with a bang for Somerset as sophomore Kade Grundy homered to right field in the very first at bat of the game.
Danville scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning, but Somerset scored a run in the top of the second when Acey hit a deep sacrifice fly to deep centerfield to score Logan Purcell - who was running for starting pitcher Dylan Burton.
The Briar Jumpers took a momentary 5-2 lead in the top of the third inning after plating three runs. Stephens reached base on an infield error to plate Grundy. Burton singled through the left side of the infield to score Camden Ryan. Reynolds got on base after a strikeout went by the catcher, which allowed Purcell, who was running for Burton, to score again.
The Jumpers' lead was short-lived as Danville scored five runs in the bottom half of the third to go up 7-5. Danville's Ethan Wood hit a three-run homer to pace the Admirals' rally.
Somerset picked up a run in the top of the fourth when Stayton doubled down the left field line to score Grundy, and close Danville's lead to 7-6. Danville scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to go up 9-6.
The Admirals got two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, but a 'Cole Reynolds to Cam Ryan to Gavin Stephens' double play ended the Admiral rally.
Offensively for Somerset, Kade Grundy had three hits, drove in a run, and scored four runs. Chance Stayton had three hits and drove in three runs. Dylan Burton had three hits and drove in two runs. Cole Reynolds had two hits and rove in two runs.
Local players named to the 12th Region All-Tournament Team were Southwestern's Noah Helton; and from Somerset was Gavin Stephens, Alex Ham, Dakota Acey, and Chance Stayton. Kade Grundy was named the 12th Region Tournament MVP.
The last time the Briar Jumpers won a 12th Region baseball title was in 2007, which was Grundy's first regional crown as the Briar Jumper coach. Grundy has led the Briar Jumpers baseball program to six regional final appearances (2019, 2014, 2011, 2009, 2007, and 2006) and in three of those regional final games the Briar Jumpers have battled a Danville team. Grundy now has two regional titles (2007and 2019) to his credit.
Somerset (22-12) will advance to the semi-state at the University of Kentucky baseball field on Saturday, June 1, at 7 p.m., to play the winner of Region 11 Tournament.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.