By BRIAN LESTER
HAMLER — Josh Petersen remembers watching Patrick Henry’s baseball team make a run to back-to-back Division IV state championships in 2008 and 2009.
Sitting with friends in the stands, he dreamed of one day being on the field for the Patriots and experiencing his own run to glory.
After the way the senior pitched Thursday afternoon in a Division IV regional semifinal against McComb, it’s starting to look like the dream of winning a ring could become a reality.
Petersen threw six solid innings and the offense was clicking on all cylinders as the Patriots topped the Panthers 13-2 on a warm, sun-splashed afternoon at Garrold Parratt Field.
Petersen struck out nine and his only two runs he allowed were unearned as Patrick Henry (21-9) moved within a heartbeat of the state tournament.
It will get a get a chance to punch a ticket to state today when it plays Tinora (21-4) at 5 p.m. in a regional final.
“I remember being up in the stands in 2008 and 2009 and wanting to live those moments,” Petersen said.
“We got a step closer to it today. It feels good to move on.”
The one concern the Patriots have going forward is the status of Kollin Spence.
Spence took a shot in the face as he attempted to field a hard-hit ball in the fifth inning. It bounced off the dirt and hit him in the eye. Spence laid on the field for several minutes but got up on his own.
Spence is scheduled to pitch today. The early indication from Patrick Henry head coach Shawn Sunderman is that he will.
“He passed the concussion test. That was the biggest thing I was worried about,” Sunderman said. “We will have to watch for swelling. Kollin said he would be ready to go. We’ll find out in the morning.”
Either way, Patrick Henry has no intentions of having its season come to an end.
Getting to state has been the goal along for the Patriots, who are in the regional tourney for the first time since 2010. The Patriots moved up to Division III a year later, but went back to Division IV this season.
Along with the move came high expectations.
“We always want to strive for state,” Petersen said. “After 2010, we went to Division III. This is our first time back in Division IV. We knew we had a team that was good enough to make a run. We want to keep it going.”
Petersen threw hard out of the gate and never let up on a day when he gave up seven hits and walked two.
The Panthers scored twice in the third thanks to an infield error, slicing the Patriots’ lead to 8-2.
The only time Petersen showed any signs of letting up was in the sixth, but that was mainly due to the fact that he was feeling the effects of sliding into third the previous inning.
Sunderman walked out to the mound to talk things over with Petersen.
“He just needed a breather,” Sunderman said. “He got the wind knocked out of him on the steal at third. He just needed to catch his breath. He has been dominant all year. We knew if he had his A or B game, we would be alright.”
Still, McComb had opportunities. The Panthers (22-4) hit the ball hard but couldn’t string together hits for a rally. They also left the bases loaded twice.
McComb finished with eight hits, including a single and double by Clay Dysert. Taylor Reardon and Mitch Schroeder also tallied two hits apiece.
“It’s not like we didn’t go up there and hit the ball,” McComb head coach Rob Quiroga said. “We put the ball in play. We just hit it to them.”
Four errors didn’t help the Panthers’ cause.
“We had too many errors, and we haven’t made a lot of them this season,” Quiroga said. “It’s tough to have four in a game. We also left too many guys stranded. You can’t leave 12 or 13 guys on base and try to win a game.”
The Patriots led 2-0 after the first before taking control for good in the third. Joey Nickels ripped a hit into the outfield to drive in a run and put the Patriots ahead 3-0. He scored on that same hit as a couple of errors allowed him to go all the way home for a 4-0 lead.
Jake Montana’s two-run hit down the first-base line pushed two more runs across the plate. Brad Breece drove in a run with an infield hit and Mason Fintel scored on a balk as the Patriots extended their lead to 8-0.
That marked the end of the day for starter Clay Grubb. He left with one out in the third. Grubb gave up six hits and struck out three.
The Panthers got on the board in the bottom of the third. Taylor Reardon had the only hit of the inning, but an error allowed the Panthers to score twice.
The Patriots scored five more times, the highlight of that stretch being a double by Kyler Seamann in the fifth that bounced off the ball in left and allowed three runners to score for an 11-2 advantage.
Patrick Henry finished with 10 hits. Nickels tallied two hits, including a triple. That was more than enough offensive support for Petersen, who had not pitched since the district semifinal.
“I had a whole week to rest and felt great,” Petersen said. “I can’t say enough about the offense. It’s easy to work when you have a big lead.”
It was a lead the Panthers couldn’t overcome as their stellar season drew to a close.
“We finished 22-4. I can’t complain about that,” Quiroga said. “We just have to get ready for next year and make another run at it. I believe we can and the players believe they can.”
As for the Patriots, they are on the doorstep of accomplishing another goal, and Sunderman is quick to credit his six seniors for helping to put the team in this position.
“We have a great group of seniors, and those guys aren’t ready for their season to be over,” Sunderman said. “Hopefully we can get another win and go from there.”
Petersen is ready for the moment, a moment he has dreamed about for a long time.
“We’re hungry to get back to state,” Petersen said. “We don’t want to be a team that is just happy to be in the regional.”
PATRICK HENRY 206 030 2 — 13 10 2
McCCOMB 002 000 0 — 2 8 4
WP — Petersen. LP — Grubb. TOP HITTERS: (PH) Nickels 3B, 1B; Hoops 2B; Seemann 2B, 3 RBI; Montana 1B, 2 RBI. (McC) Dysert 2B, 1B; Reardon 2-1B.
RECORDS: McComb 22-4, Patrick Henry 21-9.
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