Luke Allen delivered a solid pitching performance and Brad Toxen connected for a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift the Bethlehem Christian Academy baseball team into the state semifinals.
The Knights (18-7) rallied for a 3-1 win in game three against Fullington Academy Monday afternoon and will be in the GISA Final Four for the third consecutive season. The Trojans, who were the No. 2 seed from Region 3-A, had pushed the series to a third and deciding game by winning the second half of a doubleheader Saturday.
“Fullington is well coached,” BCA coach Colby May said after the game. “This series was a grind to the end. Games like this, and series like this, make us better. We grew up a lot in these three games. We were able to take advantage of the few opportunities we were given.”
Allen came up big working all seven innings and striking out 10 batters while giving up only one hit and three walks. Fullington scored its lone run in the top of the first when Jim Hartin reached on an error allowing Cal Willard, who had walked, to score.
Allen set the Trojans down in order in the second and third innings. Fullington had a one-out single in the top of the fourth, but he was left stranded. The Trojans were also set down by Allen in order in the fifth and sixth innings.
BCA tied the game in the bottom of the third when Jacob Walls delivered an RBI single scoring Brady Stewart, who began the inning with a leadoff double.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the sixth. Allen drilled a leadoff single to deep left to start the inning. Jacob Fincher then advanced Dakota Parten, who was the designated courtesy runner for Allen, to second on a ground out.
Two batters later, Toxen connected on his first career homer which sent the Knights into the semifinals.
Fullington Academy’s Logan Priest drew a walk in the top of the seventh but Allen recorded all three outs by strikeout to seal the deal and the series.
“I felt good out there,” Allen said. “I felt stronger as the game went on. It was a tough series and it’s great to move on.”
Allen’s coach said the BCA player “pitched the best he has all year.”
“I can’t ask for any better performance than that,” May said. “He’s a gamer and can do it all. He can catch, pitch and hit. He picked our team up with his performance today.”
Allen worked a majority of the season as the team’s closer, but May said Monday he has earned a starter’s role the rest of the way.
For Toxen, it was a memorable effort.
“I was mainly trying to make contact,” the freshman said. “When I connected with it, I thought it had a chance to go, but I wasn’t sure. It was great seeing it clear the fence.”
May credited Toxen for staying focused during that at-bat.
“He didn’t let the situation get to him,” the coach said. “He stayed composed and stayed in there and battled. It says a lot about his character.”
In a series where the three games were decided by a total of four runs, May said pitching and defense were the key for the Knights.
“We can only control what we can control,” May said. “We have to continue to focus on the process.”
Up next is Robert Toombs, a No. 1 seed from Region 2-A. May was set to gather information on his team’s semifinal opponent Tuesday.
The Knights and Trojans split their doubleheader Saturday forcing a third and deciding game. BCA rallied to win the opener 4-3 before Fullington rallied for a 4-3 win in the nightcap in the GISA Class A state playoffs.
In the first game Saturday, BCA found itself down 2-0 after Fullington pushed a run across in both the top of the first and top of the second.
That lead held up until the Knights scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, both as a result of a two-out rally. Brad Toxen walked with two outs followed by a single by Ryan Whiting. Jacob Parker then delivered an infield single to load the bases.
An infield hit by Brady Stewart allowed two runs to score. P.J. Klein then reached on an error to load the bases again, but BCA would leave three runners stranded.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, BCA took its first lead after Whiting had a leadoff single and Stewart later walked with one out. Klein put down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with two outs. A two-run single by Jacob Walls brought Whiting and Stewart home and gave the Knights their first lead of the day.
Fullington pushed one run across in the top of the seventh, but could not even the tie.
Klein went the distance for coach Colby May striking out 12 batters while scattering six hits. He also walked four batters.
Braden Shealy was the tough luck losing pitcher for the Trojans pitching six innings and allowing seven hits while striking out three and walking three.
Leading the series 1-0, BCA appeared primed to close the quarterfinal round out in game two. BCA was the designated home team and scored three runs in the top of the first.
Klein had a leadoff walk and proceeded to steal second. He ended up at third on the throw during the steal.
Walls then walked and also stole second. An infield hit by Luke Allen allowed Klein to score. Dakota Parten stole second after he was called on as a courtesy runner for Allen.
Jacob Fincher, who was the starting pitcher for game two, had an infield hit to score Walls. Toxen then earned an RBI with a sacrifice fly to bring Parten home.
The turning point in game two came in the top of the second inning. Parker had a long single after he just missed a homerun. Stewart then continued his solid series with an infield hit.
Parker and Stewart would eventually be in scoring position with no outs, however, Fullington pitcher Ty Tyndal held the Knights scoreless and, as a result, kept his team in the game.
After Parker and Stewart reached in the second inning, the BCA bats went ice cold. Fullington’s Tyndal put down the next 18 batters in order.
The Trojans scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth.
In the fifth, BCA called on Caleb Hopkins to work in relief.
Hopkins got out of the fifth inning, but could not escape the sixth as Fullington had a two-run hit by Cal Willard with two outs.
BCA went in order in the top of the seventh forcing a third and deciding contest.