RALEIGH — Athens Drive designated hitter Matt Proctor had done this before. But that did not stop the butterflies in his stomach when he stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday afternoon - his team down a run with the bases loaded.
As nervous as he may have been on the outside, the sophomore was poised at the plate, watching pitch after pitch before singling to center field to drive in the tying and winning runs. The Jaguars (15-6) defeated Wake Forest-Rolesville 2-1 in the first round of the 4-A baseball playoffs and will host East Chapel Hill on Tuesday.
It was Athens Drive's fifth walk-off win of the year, and the second time Proctor had delivered one with a base hit.
"I knew I just had to hit it hard somewhere," Proctor said. "I guess we just know how to do it in the clutch."
Leading up to Proctor's winner was a leadoff single by center fielder Ben Snotherly, a strikeout by Patrick Graham, ground-rule double by second baseman Eric Berger and an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a potential game-ending double play to Justin Reynolds.
"We had been hitting the ball all day long, but their defense was making play after play after play," Athens Drive coach Joey Bell said.
Athens Drive has made it a habit of scoring runs late in games, whether in walk-off fashion or extending a narrow lead in the latter stages of the game.
"As long as we keep doing it, a 'W' is a 'W.' I would love to score some early, but the effort was there from our kids," Bell said. "You've just got to trust your kids and what's got you here."
One of the reasons Athens Drive got here - hosting the two rounds of the playoffs and finishing second in the Tri-Nine Conference - is its ace, Chris Williams.
Williams, a senior signed to play at N.C. State next year, pitched a complete-game three-hitter and needed just 66 pitches to do so. He struck out five, walked zero and did not allow an extra-base hit.
"We never really quit," Williams said. "With the walk-off wins we've had, we definitely feel an advantage to playing at home."
Wake Forest-Rolesville (11-11) did its only scoring off Williams in the second inning, using leadoff singles from pitcher Corey Brookins and catcher Billy Clemons to get aboard. After a sacrifice fly by Tyler Coyle moved pinch-runner Nick Silva to third base, John Fountain drove him in on a force out at second with the next at-bat.
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