By the time Pepperell and Haralson County got to the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday evening it seemed that maybe there were no more twists left to be revealed.
The host Dragons had watched as their 12-6 lead had disappeared in one troubling half inning and were facing the possibility of going into extra innings as the temperature continued to slide and the sunlight was fading.
But with Pepperell down to its last out in the seventh and Dragon Griffin Kanelos on second, Jake Chandler put the bat on the ball with one of the more confident swings of the night and sent it down the left field line.
With the ball racing toward the corner, Kanelos made the turn at third and sprinted toward home with his teammates already celebrating as Pepperell won the non-region game 13-12.
“He’s been a warrior since Day 1,” Pepperell coach Chad Brown said of Chandler. “We did about everything that you can do to lose a ball game. But then you’ve got a kid like Jake Chandler, you can find a way to win it late.”
The Dragons (5-1) had already battled back once in the game when Haralson County rallied for a four-run top of the second to give the Rebels an early 4-1 lead.
Pepperell responded with five runs in the bottom of the frame and went on to take a 12-6 lead after scoring four runs in the fifth. Haralson County (1-3) took advantage of some untimely errors as well as a rejuvenated offense to put up six runs in the top of the sixth and tie it up.
“I thought we came out a little flat. But once the game settled in we swung it really well tonight against some really good pitchers,” Brown said. “Haralson County does a great job of doing everything the right way. And they battled themselves back into the game.”
Chandler had helped a pair of runs score in Pepperell’s fifth inning when his grounder to right went under the glove of the Rebels’ second baseman. He was then called on to take over pitching duties in the sixth with two runners on and no outs. He eventually settled in and got out of the inning.
“He hasn’t worked very much with us pitching wise, and we put him up there on the hill, and he found a way to get outs and he got it done in the end,” Brown said.
Just prior to Chandler’s contact in the fifth, Haralson County had intentionally walked Pepperell catcher Mason Fincher to get to the senior.
“That kind of ate at him a little bit,” Brown said. “So he was ready for the moment and he delivered.”
Fincher ended up going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, while Chase Gresham went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored, and Dakota Corntassel went 2-for-3. Cayden Head had a double, and Kanelos scored three runs.
Kanelos also pitched three innings and struck out four before being taken out in the sixth and replaced by Chandler. Logan Lawrence got the win as he came on with two outs in the top of the seventh and walked one before striking out the next batter.
Pepperell will begin its time at the Battle for Bartow Classic at Lakepoint sports complex on Friday by facing off with Cass at 5 p.m. The Dragons will play at least two more games in the event over the weekend.
“I think we’re still trying to find an identity,” he said. “I think this team can be anything that they want to be, and it’s got some great senior leadership, so once they figure that out there’s really no telling how far this team can go.”