The motto for the 2012 Chapelgate baseball team might as well be "It's not about how you start, but how you finish."
The Yellowjackets started this season 0-4 with losses to a pair of B Conference schools (Glenelg Country and St. Marys), a public school (Marriotts Ridge) and Sts. Peter and Paul, which now has a losing record in the C Conference.
But since that slow start, Chapelgate has gone on an 8-1 run, including an extra innings win over visiting Beth T'Filoh on Thursday, 9-8, in the regular season finale.
"We've really come around," said second-year coach Justin Riggin. "And the kids have just been working so hard everyday."
Just as they had a slow start to the season, Chapelgate had a slow start on Thursday. The Warriors took an 8-4 lead after three innings, scoring four runs in the first and three in the third, with the big blows coming on a three-run triple by Dave Disney in the first and a two-run double by Jared Flax in the third.
The Yellowjackets responded in the bottom of the first by scoring three runs on two hits (Jon Hamilton, Alex Bishop), two walks, an error and a hit batter.
Freshman Michael Patton then came in to pitch in the third with two outs, runners on first and second and three runs already in. He got out of the inning when catcher Rick Glidden caught a runner trying to steal third, and then pitched three more innings of scoreless relief, striking out five, walking three and allowing only one hit.
The Warriors loaded the bases in the sixth with one out, but Patton got out of the jam with a strikeout and an outstanding leaping catch by shortstop Jordan Lawrence that saved at least two runs.
Meanwhile, Chapelgate chipped away on offense, scoring twice in the fourth on a two-run single by Hamilton, once in the fifth on a sac fly by Matt Hearn that plated Patton, and once more in the sixth on a balk to send Alex Bishop across the plate for the tying run.
Hamilton, the Yellowjackets closer, then came on in the seventh and pitched two more scoreless innings of relief, making it five scoreless innings for the Chapelgate bullpen.
Finally, in the bottom of the eighth, Chapelgate loaded the bases with no outs, pulling the Beth T'Filoh defense in tight, and Lawrence hit a sharp groundball to short that was too hot to handle, allowing Glidden to sprint home for the winning run.
With the win, the Yellowjackets improved to 8-2 in the conference to clinch the No. 2 seed in the upcoming playoffs which begin on Thursday. In that playoff game, Chapelgate will host third-seeded Beth T'Filoh.
"I'm so happy that we went into extras, because now we have literally seen everything they have to throw at us," Riggin said.
At 6-3 coming into the game, Beth T'Filoh could have forced a tie in the conference standings with a win on Thursday. The first time the two teams met, on April 17, Chapelgate won, 5-4, in the eighth inning.
St. Johns (9-1) is the top seed in the C Conference. Chapelgate handed St. Johns its only loss this year, 13-12, but lost the other game of the double-header, 11-0, on April 3.
Two years ago Chapelgate was 0-10, and last year it finished 6-9.
BT 413 000 00 - 8
Ch 310 211 01 - 9
Glenelg Country also won a close game on Thursday, coming back to beat visiting Mount Carmel, 3-2.
Mount Carmel held a 2-0 lead through five innings behind the excellent pitching of Evan Covelley (10 K, 0 BB, 5 H, 0 ER), but the Dragons finally broke through to score three unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth, handing Covelley a hard-luck loss.