MONTGOMERY — Piedmont blew past the school record for wins and won in a best-of-3, state-final series for the first time in school history this season.
The Bulldogs also suffered their first shutout and run-rule loss at the worst possible time.
On a day that saw both pitching staffs stressed, Providence Christian took advantage of seven walks, six hit batsmen and four Piedmont errors, winning Game 3 16-6 in six innings in Riverwalk Stadium on Wednesday.
This after Brant Deerman’s game-ending single in the ninth inning gave Piedmont its first victory in three state-final appearances, 5-4 in Game 2.
“It hurts right now,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said, “but, when the dust settles and these guys sit back and look at what they did over the course of the past three months, they’ll realize they really accomplished a lot.”
Piedmont finished 36-10, having established a new school single-season record for wins in the second round of the playoffs. A Game 2 victory in Montgomery on Wednesday came after Piedmont suffered finals sweeps to Trinity in 2012 and Gordo in 2017 and lost Tuesday’s series opener against Providence Christian, 4-0.
“We kind of got the monkey off our back,” Deerman said.
Providence Christian (30-9) won its second state title and first since 2008.
This despite pitching woes that would’ve felled many teams in the finals. Grayson Stewart threw a two-hit shutout Tuesday, but normal Game 2 starter David Warren didn’t pitch in Game 2 because of a blister on his throwing hand. He tried to start Game 3 but walked Piedmont leadoff hitter T.J. Fairs on four pitches, prompting Eagles coach Casey Smith to reinsert Will Solomon.
Solomon took the Game 2 loss in relief of Brayden Banner, the normal Game 3 starter.
Providence Christian was down to its No. 4 pitcher against a Piedmont lineup that produced 77 runs over nine games in the first four rounds of the playoffs.
“Will throws one or two innings a game, when he comes in to close a game, maybe,” Smith said.
Piedmont found itself out of sorts, as well.
The only team of the two to win a Game 3 before Wednesday, the Bulldogs normally start Bryce Walter in Game 2 and Mason Mohon in Game 3. Walter was cruising with a 4-1 lead until the sixth inning of Game 2, when Providence Christian scored three runs to tie the game, aided by a hit batsman and two of Walter’s three walks in the game, one with the bases loaded.
“Sometimes as a pitcher, you get out of a groove,” Matt Deerman said. “He was rocking and rolling in a groove, and it just got away from him.”
With Piedmont needing to get to Game 3, Matt Deerman called Mohon to the mound. He pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.
Under AHSAA pitch rules governing the number of pitches allowed in a single day, Walter came out of Game 2 with 42 pitches left. Mohon had 60.
Piedmont was out of its routine. Matt Deerman had to make a decision and started Walter, who worked 35 pitches through two innings and exited with a 3-0 lead in Game 3.
With Walter down to seven pitches, Matt Deerman reinserted Mohon to start the third inning. Mohon, who battled through calf cramps to get the Game 2 win, walked three batters and hit another one.
Mohon labored 37 pitches before exiting with the bases loaded and Piedmont clinging to a 3-2 lead.
“It’s difficult to throw and then rest and then throw again,” Matt Deerman said. “They’re both competitors, though. They wanted the ball.
“Those were our best two (available) guys, and I had to make a decision. I made that decision, and I’ve got to live with it.”
From there, Piedmont tried Silas Thompson, Sean Smith and Jack Hayes, who gave up a combined 10 earned runs.
Solomon, meanwhile, finished off a day that saw him pitch seven complete innings over two games, exhausting his daily pitch count two outs into the sixth inning. For the day, he allowed nine hits and five earned runs with one walk and eight strikeouts.
A closer and the tournament’s most valuable player, Solomon finished with a win and a loss.
“That’s the most I’ve pitched all year, in one day,” he said.
Piedmont’s day had its highlights, however.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, left fielder Austin Estes started up and leaped with his glove arm fully extended to snag Banner’s line drive to keep Game 2 tied 4-4.
Brant Deerman’s game-ending single in the ninth inning scored Estes, who reached on an error and took second base on T.J. Fairs’ sacrifice bunt.
“Started off, he threw a high fastball, and I saw it good,” Deerman said. “I took it. I didn’t think it was a strike, but I was seeing it good, and he kind of got behind, and he threw a fastball away. I just took it the other way, and Estes has a lot of speed and scored.
“It’s the best feeling in baseball.”