Williamstown Walks Off Tyler in Section 2 Final
photo by: Kerry Patrick
WILLIAMSTOWN — Mired in survival mode, Williamstown turned to a cold bat off the bench and its third individual out of the designated hitter slot.
Down 0-2 in the count, Yellowjacket freshman TJ Thomas sent an offering from Tyler Consolidated reliever Hayden Brown to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field for a two-run double to clinch the Class A, Region I, Section 2 championship. The 6-5, walk-off win sends Williamstown (24-4) into the next Monday’s best-of-three Region I format against Madonna.
“When TJ comes in, he usually swings the bat hard — he matches up with pitchers like a Hayden Brown,” Williamstown coach Levi Maxwell said. “We told him at the start of the season he will have to do a great job coming into big situations. I told him when he was on deck, this is your big situation.
“He did what he was supposed to.”
The game featured numerous ebbs and flows, especially in the final three innings which witnessed four lead changes.
“At the end of the day, we executed like we were supposed to and it worked out,” Maxwell continued. “It’s going to take me a minute to catch my breath. This game here was an emotional roller coaster.”
The resiliency which followed Tyler Consolidated throughout the season emerged in the top of the seventh inning and the Silver Knights trailing 4-3. After a combination of Williamstown pitchers issued three base on balls to load the bases with the one out, Brown stepped to the plate and lifted a fly ball to medium left field. The relay from left field to shortstop to home plate beat Owen Westbrook tagging up from third base, but the ball was jarred loose as Westbrook made contact with Yellowjacket catcher Cruz Isaly.
Instead of a game-ending double play for Williamstown, TCHS had forced a 5-5 tie.
Reliever Parker Schramm then preceded to hit two consecutive Tyler batters to force in the go-ahead run for the Silver Knights.
Three outs from stamping its ticket for regionals, TC only had three pitches remaining for starting pitcher Ty Walton. After Walton walked Luke Ankrom, Brown entered in relief and could not handle a comebacker from Harbor Haught, who reached on the bunt single.
Chase Barkley, who pitched the first six innings for Williamstown and allowed five runs on seven hits, laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the Yellowjacket runners to second and third base.
Coach Maxwell called on Thomas to face Brown, after falling behind 0-2 in the count, the move wasn’t looking too profitable. The roller coaster of a ride for both teams reached its peak as Thomas sent a deep fly ball which the center fielder couldn’t flag down. As the two Williamstown baserunners scored, Thomas advanced to third base not fully realizing the impact then joined the celebration with his teammates.
“Our kids battled all season long — I didn’t expect anything different coming in,” Tyler coach Rob Jones after his ballclub ended the 2022 campaign at 23-9. “I put our kids against anybody’s. They battled all the way.
“The kids won 23 games, which is a school record and the first conference championship. And we battled until the last out. I’m just proud of the kids’ effort all season long.”
Tyler fell behind 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Carson Hill out of the No. 9 slot in the batting order with two outs struck out but reached on a wild pitch on a dropped third strike. That opened the door for Leewood Molessa, who blasted a home run over the left-center field fence — just right of the scoreboard. Molessa finished the afternoon 2-for-2 with a home run, triple, three runs scored and two RBIs.
“Leewood Molessa is a college type of hitter — he hasn’t hurt us in that way before, but he always hits the ball hard,” Jones said. “It’s a tough decision whether to pitch to him or not. They have a guy on base, and Leewood barreled one up.”
Jones gave Walton the starting nod, and the junior responded by surrendering just one run on two hits through the first four innings. Leewood Molessa’s lead-off triple in the third inning was promptly followed by younger brother Maxwell Molessa ringing an RBI double.
“This was a great team win — everybody contributed all the way around,” Leewood Molessa said. “Chase threw a heck of a ballgame. We had guys step up in big situations when they were in the box. We picked up Schramm there at the end — he came into the dugout and we said ‘you are good. We’re are going to pick you up,’ and we did.
“As for TJ, he is a really relaxed guy. Normally, he has a lot of poise when he is in the box. Being a freshman, it’s a great for him to be able to step in a situation like that. He has some juice and he caught the barrel of the bat.”
Barkley pitched four innings of shutout ball until Tyler Consolidated posted a three-spot in the fifth inning. Three straight one-out singles from the bottom third of the order (Weston Henderson, Westbrook and Carson Gorby) led to the Silver Knights’ first run. After a walk loaded the bases, Zade Billings kept the line moving with yet another RBI single. Brown tacked on another run with his sacrifice fly.
“Tyler is probably one of the best teams we have played all year, if not the best team, so if you are able to get out of that and in the manner we did it it is only going to carry into the next game,” coach Maxwell said after his Yellowjackets won three of the five meetings this season with TCHS. “I didn’t like that we had to walk it off, but it isn’t a bad thing to walk it off. It’s definitely a momentum builder.
“Tyler Consolidated is the toughest competitor in the sense they really find ways to stay in games. They do an excellent job figuring out how to score runs. They play us to the best of their ability every time they show up. To out-execute them today was a big deal for us.”