RINER, Va. — After giving up a three-run lead in the top half of the inning, Auburn rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to keep its baseball season alive on Tuesday.
Taylor Newcome’s bases-loaded walk was also a walk-off as the Eagles escaped with a 7-6 win over Chilhowie in a VHSL Class 1 state baseball quarterfinal.
“That seventh got enjoyable for a lot of people, but not for me necessarily,” Auburn coach Eric Altizer said.
Auburn came into the seventh with what seemed to be a comfortable 5-2 lead, but three Eagles’ pitchers struggled to find the strike zone, as Auburn walked four and hit another Chilhowie batter during the inning. Eventually a bases-loaded walk to Logan Branson gave the Warriors the lead at 6-5.
“Our philosophy was to wait till we got a strike and their pitchers got wild and gave us a chance,” Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson said.
Auburn reliever Reed Underwood walked in the go-ahead run, but he also got three consecutive outs with the bases loaded to hold the Warriors lead to one run.
Underwood also got an assist, literally, from right fielder Keith Reed, who threw out Chilhowie’s Ethan Armstrong at home when Armstrong broke late to the plate from third after a bloop hit to right fell in front of Reed.
Auburn (23-3) wasted little time answering back in the bottom of seventh, as catcher Tyler Sparrer led off the inning with a hit. Second baseman Austin Kirtner followed with a walk to put the winning run on base.
“We all just got together [between half innings] and said we have to do our job, or it will be time to go home,” Newcome said.
Shortstop Parker Hale followed Kirtner’s walk with a single up the middle off Chilhowie pitcher Ray Berry that scored the tying run and advanced Kirtner to third.
Chilhowie (22-3) intentionally walked Drew Hill to load the bases and create a force play at each base. That strategy backfired, however, when Newcome came up and walked on a 3-2 pitch to force in winning run.
“My approach was just to get my toes on the plate and make [Berry] throw it in,” Newcome said.
From the opposing dugout, Robinson said he knew finishing off the Eagles would be a tough task.
“Those last three outs are the toughest outs in baseball,” Robinson said.
Newcome also started on the mound for the Eagles giving up two runs in five innings of work. All of this had extra meaning for the senior right-hander since Tuesday was also his birthday.
“It’s awesome. I couldn’t imagine anything better,” Newcome said. “I definitely will remember this.”
Auburn moves to the Class 1 state semifinals where the Eagles will play Riverheads at 1 p.m. Friday at Calfee Park in Pulaski.
“There will be four good teams coming up in the next round. We’re just glad to be moving on,” Altizer said.
With the loss, seven Chilhowie seniors saw their high school careers come to an end.
“They’ve all been in the lineup for three or four years,” Robinson said. “I was thinking earlier today this might be the last time I write them in the lineup.”
Chilhowie 4, Auburn 2
Chilhowie 020 000 4—6 8 3
Auburn 020 111 2—7 8 0
W – Underwood. L – Berry. HR – Armstrong (C)