Pinewood Prep won its second SCISA AAA state baseball championship in four years in convincing fashion on Thursday night, beating Northwood Academy, 11-3, in the decisive third game of the championship series.
Pinewood Prep junior left-hander J.D. Waite improved to 11-3 this season with his second complete game performance in four days, scattering six singles and allowing one earned run. Waite struck out four hitters while walking one and hitting one.
Pinewood Prep (21-7) had seven hits but took advantage of four Northwood Academy errors in winning its 14th game in the last 16 outings.
“It’s a great win and well-deserving by a group of kids that were sitting at 5-5 earlier in the year and refused to accept mediocrity,” said Pinewood Prep coach Phil Tobin. “Obviously, Northwood made a few mistakes that changed the game a great deal, but I’m so proud of our players for responding the way a champion should respond in a big game.”
Pinewood Prep managed a run in the bottom of the first without a hit, scoring on Jack Buddin’s sacrifice fly to right. The Panthers made it 2-0 on an RBI double by Brian Doucet, then blew the game open in the fourth.
Pinewood scored four runs in the decisive inning, three coming on a dropped fly ball with two outs and the bases loaded.
“That was the turning point, no doubt about it,” said Northwood coach Jerry Stoots. “It was already 3-0, which is a tough thing against Waite, but making it six on that one play really allowed them to relax.”
Northwood scratched for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but Pinewood Prep posted five more runs, aided by three errors, to open up an 11-2 lead. Waite had a RBI single and pinch-hitter Austin Morgan had a two-run single to fuel the rally.
Waite allowed a meaningless run in the seventh, but otherwise coasted to victory.
“The coaches were debating whether to throw me on two days rest, and I told them I felt good and wanted to go,” said Waite. “I felt good tonight. I just tried to keep us in the game and wait for the guys to get a few runs. Once we got up, I knew I could finish it off.”
Northwood lost for the fifth consecutive year in the state finals, and four of its seven losses this season came to their rivals from Region 3.
Stoots, who coached Tobin on the 1985 Stall High School state championship team, said losing is never easy.
“You work hard to get here and then when you don’t play well, it’s disappointing,” said Stoots. “We made a lot of mistakes, and that’s on me as the coach. We just picked the worst possible night to play bad, and credit Waite for pitching 14 innings in four days and really shutting us down.”