Head coach Tommy Thomas was upset.
Isaac Eldreth was bummed.
So was Josh Presley.
Cody Smith too.
Heck, everybody wearing a Patrick Henry uniform was feeling pretty low on May 15 after the Rebels dropped a 12-2, six-inning decision to the Holston Cavaliers in the semifinals of the Hogoheegee District baseball tournament.
“I knew we were better than the way we played versus Holston,” Presley said. “It was tough knowing that the potential was there, but not being able to play to that potential.”
PH (18-6) hit rock bottom that day, but it turned out to be the wake-up call the Rebels needed. The team that finished third in the district tournament is among the final four VHSL Class 1 teams still standing and plays Lancaster on Thursday at 9 a.m. in a state semifinal showdown at Pulaski’s Calfee Park.
“Losing to Holston that day marked the turning point of our season,” said Eldreth, the team’s ace pitcher. “Coming in to practice after that game reassured me that things would be OK. Everyone was focused and had a purpose for everything they were doing.”
Since that time, PH’s postseason march has been a thrill-ride as the Rebels have prevailed in five high-pressure, high-stake contests.
The Rebels clinched a regional tournament bid with a 12-2 win over Northwood in the consolation game of the Hogoheegee tourney as Jacob Eisert keyed a six-run second inning that erased an early 2-1 deficit.
The Rebels trailed 1-0 early but posted a 4-2 victory on the road against Cumberland District champion Eastside in the quarterfinals of the Region 1D tourney.
They scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to gain some revenge against Holston in the semifinals of the Region 1D tournament, recording a 7-4 victory in a contest that didn’t end until 10:53 p.m.
Two days later, Patrick Henry turned a clutch triple play in the sixth inning en route to a 7-5 triumph over Chilhowie to win the Region 1D championship.
Last Tuesday, the Rebels took care of business in a 6-3 state quarterfinal victory over the Galax Maroon Tide as Colby Taylor went 4-for-4 and crushed a home run.
“With those must-win games testing our team, we have become much stronger mentally,” Thomas said.
The test on Thursday will come from a 20-3 Lancaster squad that is led by James Madison University signee Matthew Kleinfelter, a pitcher with a 0.45 ERA.
Taylor has led PH at the plate in the postseason, but it’s been a balanced attack for the Rebels.
It’s been that way since May 16, when PH showed up for practice following a disheartening defeat and went to work.
Refocused, rejuvenated and ready to get on a roll.
“Most all coaches talk about doing the little things,” Thomas said. “Sometimes it is hard to get high school kids to understand that they need to take more care in the little things when they are winning anyway. I tried to focus on a different fundamental concept each week. I think we are playing our best now because they have seen that the little things are what wins games and makes a difference.”