In the seventh inning, he robbed Unicoi County of a victory.
Casaday hit a screaming line drive to left-center field with the bases loaded for a walk-off three-run double, keeping the Patriots’ season alive with a 4-3 win over the Blue Devils in the losers’ bracket semifinal of the District 1-AA baseball tournament at TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been in this position before, on the losing end,” said East head coach Mike Breuninger. “I knew it wasn’t over until the last out is made. That was what we were clinging to. We fought until the end and came through at the end.”
East (16-13) advanced to play Sullivan South (19-11) in the losers’ bracket final Wednesday at 5 p.m. A berth in next week’s region tournament will be on the line.
The winner will advance into the championship round of the district against Elizabethton (23-7) at approximately 8 p.m.
It was Peyton Whitson’s game as the Blue Devils’ left-handed ace controlled the Patriots for six innings.
He needed a helping hand from center fielder Brett Strother, who made a spectacular full-speed sliding catch of a screaming liner off the bat of Casaday in the fifth inning with the potential go-ahead run on base. Strother got to his feet and threw to second base for an inning-ending double play.
“That was just a great athletic play,” said Breuninger. “It was a great catch.”
THE FINAL AT-BAT
Heading into the seventh inning, it appeared the only thing that could stop Whitson was his pitch count. And when he walked a pair of batters to the start the inning, the countdown began.
Finally, he threw his 120th pitch with the bases loaded, one out, and a 3-2 count on the batter.
Kaleb Metcalf faced the unenviable task of having to throw a strike on his first pitch with the bases loaded. Metcalf came through and got a fly out.
Then he got Casaday in an 0-2 hole. But Casaday crushed the next offering for the game-winner.
“I was looking for something I could drive in the gap, score a run and keep us going,” said Casaday. “It just so happened I hit it far enough to score three.”
Casaday said he wasn’t sure if Strother would make another play.
“I knew it was going to be a close play,” said Casaday. “He’s a great competitor and a great athlete. I was just so happy to make a play.”
Whitson allowed three hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked six and struck out 10. All four of the runs were charged to him.
For East, Luke Hale worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned, with one walk and five strikeouts. Brantley Ellis got a pair of outs and was credited with the win.
Unicoi County’s Drew Keasling was the only player in the game with multiple hits. He finished 3 for 3 with two RBIs.