CHILLICOTHE — Cam Farley didn’t know what to expect when he was penciled into the second spot in the batting order on Wednesday against Harrison Post 199.
Farley, who broke his left hand in early June, didn’t start swinging a bat until last Thursday in a batting cage and was in the lineup for just the second time during the Region V tournament.
“I’m still getting back into form, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Farley said. “If I was going to be honest with myself, I wasn’t expecting much since I’ve had such a long layoff.”
To Post 199, Farley must have appeared to be in midseason form. The Zane Trace senior had four hits, drove in six runs and scored twice to lead Circleville Post 134 to an 8-7 win in the regional championship game at VA Memorial Stadium.
“When we started the season, Cam was batting third for us and is an extremely valuable piece of our team with the way he can hit, play anywhere in the outfield and he can also pitch,” Post 134 coach Jeff Lanman said. “It was a big blow to us when he broke his left hand.
“Obviously, he’s nowhere near 100 percent at the plate since he’s been swinging a bat for less than a week, but you couldn’t tell that tonight. Cam’s a big-time player and he gave us a big-time effort when we needed it.”
The defending state champion Panthers (20-16) won their fourth consecutive regional championship and for the seventh time in nine seasons. Post 134 will return to Beavers Field on Wednesday for the opening round of the state tournament. The Panthers will face Sidney Post 217, with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m.
Post 134 appeared to put the game out of reach in the sixth inning when it scored three runs to take an 8-1 lead. A triple to left field off the bat of Farley drove in Andrew Grcic and Ty Lau and Farley scored three batters latter on a fielder’s choice to second by Lane Larson.
Since allowing a run in the first, Post 134 starter Eric Corzatt had cruised through the game, retiring 14 of the next 15 batters he faced entering the sixth inning.
“I left a couple of pitches too much over the plate in the first inning, but once I started challenging the hitters a little more things fell into place for me,” Corzatt said. “That’s the key for me, to go after the hitters by mixing my pitches and using the lower part of the strike zone.”
Post 199 began to chip away in its half of the sixth, matching the Panthers’ three runs with three of its own.
A single to center off the bat of Ben Burke scored Jake Lawson and a two-run single to right chased home both Michael Newsome and Burke.
The WestStars, a reference to Cincinnati’s West Side, went back to work in the bottom of the seventh, with their first three batters reaching safely on a pair of singles sandwiched around a walk. The second single, to right, off the bat of Newsome scored Jacob Fitzpatrick.
With Corzatt at his pitch count, Lanman brought in Max Brooks, who recorded the first out on a sacrifice fly to left by Burke that scored Lawson to make it 8-6.
The Circleville junior then coaxed a ground out to third, but the Panthers couldn’t complete the 5-3 turn and Newsome came around to score to close the margin to a run.
After a hit batter and a strikeout for the second out, the second error of the inning loaded the bases for Thomas Williams.
Brooks quickly got ahead 1-2, but Williams worked the count full.
“I felt like I had decent stuff tonight, but it would have been nice to put away Williams earlier in the count,” Brooks said. “He got the count to 3-2 and Nick Salyer came over from third to talk with me and help me out.
“I knew I was going to comeback with my fastball.”
Brooks struck out Williams swinging to end the game. The Panthers let out a sigh of relief and celebrated another trip to the state tournament.
“Max has been in pressure situations this season, but obviously nothing like that,” Lanman said. “He struggled a little bit when we brought him in earlier this season in a tournament in Wheeling, but he did well over in Kokomo and again in the Buckeye Elite.
“That’s a young pitcher maturing and Max made some big pitches there in crunch time.”
Corzatt, who was the winning pitcher in the district semifinal and district championship games played in May at VA Memorial Stadium before graduating from Westfall, added a win in the regional championship game for the Panthers.
“I have a lot of good memories down here, from what we did during school ball and now coming down here and winning the regional tournament,” Corzatt said.
Lanman called Corzatt’s effort his best performance of the season.
“Eric was really locked in through the first five innings, throwing strikes and was using his defense well,” he said. “Harrison is a really good hitting team, so to go six innings and give up four runs to them is a pretty good start.
“I should have took Eric out after the sixth, especially with his pitch count getting up there.”
The Panthers had started the regional tournament with a 3-0 record before falling 11-4 on Tuesday to the WestStars, setting up Wednesday’s winner-take-all final in the double-elimination tournament.
Lanman felt a few adjustments the Panthers made following the loss paid dividends in the rematch.
“I scouted Harrison twice and then we played them on Tuesday,” he said. “(Assistant coach Justin Good) and I are a team and we knew we had to play better in the middle and that we also had to put in a cut play for when they try a delayed double steal at first and third bases.
“We did a much better job of controlling their run game and we were also much more disciplined at the plate.”
The Panthers took advantage of nine free passes — six walks and three hit batters — with four of those runners scoring.
“We talked about being more disciplined at the plate and hunting for fastballs, especially with seeing a live arm like (Joseph McPeek),” Lanman said. “That’s where playing our travel schedule came in, because we’ve seen five or six pitchers that throw pretty hard.”
The Panthers seized the lead for good in the second on a bases clearing double to left off the bat of Farley that scored Seth Lockard, Cody Kennedy and Lau.
“I had an infield single that wasn’t hard hit in the first, so to get hold of a pitch like that and drive it deep into the outfield felt good,” Farley said.
Farley collected his third hit of the night with an RBI single to center in the fourth to score Kennedy.
After starting the season with 12 losses in their first 15 games, the Panthers are returning to the familiar confines of Beavers Field.
“We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to, obviously, but there’s something about this team that when we get close to regionals that we hit the switch and we take our game to another level,” Farley said. “We’ve won regional and now we want to take this momentum into the state tournament.”