Pope John Paul II's Levi Waites jogged to the pitcher's mound in the top of the sixth inning with no outs and the bases loaded. Hillwood High had already put one run on the board and was looking to cut even more into the Knights' lead.
JPII starting pitcher Connor Kennard had just been chased from the game after a solid five innings of three-hit ball, but Hillwood was now looking to capitalize on the opportunity in front of them.
Waites, the unorthodox, submarine-throwing left-hander, stepped to the mound and calmly pitched his way out of the jam by immediately turning a double play and then pitching a scoreless seventh inning to help hold the lead and give Pope John Paul II a 7-1 victory over the visiting Hilltoppers.
"I'm used to those situations," Waites said. "Honestly, I do better in worse situations than if I have a clean slate. It helps me focus in more. I usually get put in situations where they just need somebody to get some outs and that's what I did. I came in, threw strikes and got the job done."
Kennard, who's typically brought in from the bullpen, was given the start after a tough three-game series against Ensworth, and Knights Head Coach Chris Parker was pleased with the performance by his two senior pitchers.
"In normal region games they're two of our better relievers and we rely on them," Parker said. "They get a lot of key outs for us and we'll need them next week out of the bullpen. Kennard's pitch count was down, so he was able to go deep into the ball game and a lot of times we'll go with the lefty Waites behind him just to give people different looks and different arm angles."
The pitching performance was also helped out by some key defensive plays in the field. The Knights recorded three outs at home plate and threw out a runner at third base, along with several double plays.
"We've overcome a lot of injuries and with the young guys stepping up this year, that's one of things we've learned to hang our hats on," Parker added. "We've played really good defense here lately and that's why we've been able to win the last couple region series and it kind of showed off and paid today."
Offensively, Pope John Paul II was aggressive on the base path and had several key hits, including a three-hit evening from Max Jackson and two from Kyler Oathout. Hillwood also had seven errors, giving Pope John Paul II an offensive advantage.
Hillwood was coming off an emotional win the night before over Nashville Christian, but couldn't overcome the mistakes in the field against a tough team. Despite the loss, Head Coach Coby Ginsberg was proud of a solid pitching performance by Stephen McLaren, Khullun Avery, Andrew Spencer and Jackson Black.
"When you give up one earned run out of seven, that doesn't usually translate to wins," Ginsberg said. "We told them we have to forget about last night's game and move to this game, and when you play a Chris Parker team, they're going to be fundamental, they're going to put the ball in play and you gotta make the plays. When you don't, I mean bad things happen and that's what led to the loss."