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The 2012 Chiefland High School baseball team faced a lot of challenges during their season. The most important turned out to be a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh.
The Indians left the go-ahead run at the plate in the top of the seventh inning in their District 1A-7 semi-final game against Newberry. The loss ended a season that saw the Indians take a difficult beginning and turn it into an above-.500 record.
"We are not the same team we were at the beginning of the season," said head coach Kyle Parnell. The Indians record proved it. CHS lost only three times in their final 11 games.
The didn't go quietly in their final game. Trailing 6-2 heading into the sixth, Tim Reidy lead off the inning with a triple. Peyton Parnell followed it up with an RBI single. Two grounders later, John Ward had knocked Parnell home and the lead was down to two.
Reidy allowed the Panthers’ No. 3 hitter Adrian Gonzalez and No. 4 hitter Scott Dobbins reach base with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. A huge strikeout ended the inning and the threat.
But after senior Travis Wain singled in his final varsity at-bat and Cole Parks was hit by a pitch in the seventh, Reidy grounded to second to end the game-and the season.
Reidy had come in relief of John Ward who gave up six runs in five innings. The team's work horse had a back-and-forth game. Four of Newberry's first five batters reached base in the first, leading to three runs. in the second, Ward retired the Panthers in order.
A handful of dazzling plays by the Indians defense helped Ward in the game. In the first inning, third baseman Clayton Smith helped pick off Newberry's Austin Atkinson at third, ending the Panther's highest-scoring inning of the game. In the third, Cole Parks made a diving catch in center field for the final out of the inning, stranding two Newberry runners. After Newberry's Nathan Coleman lead the fourth inning off with a triple, left fielder James Corbin caught a long fly out and threw a line drive toward home plate, preventing the runner from scoring.
But the big defensive plays wouldn't be enough. Dobbins, Newberry's ace, gave up four runs but never lost control of the game. He also added three RBI's, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Indians already excited for next season
Youth was the biggest challenge for CHS heading into the season. Very few of the players had any varsity experience. It showed early on, when Chiefland dropped five of their first seven games. The team struggled with communication, base running and an overall lack of maturity. With one senior, it wasn't unexpected. The benefit was it gave the younger players plenty of opportunities to improve. And nearly the whole team returns next season. More impressively, the team showed marked improvement as the season progressed. In their first game against Newberry, the Indians lost 9-0 in a game that wasn't that close. In the second match-up, they lost 14-7. In the third, only 6-4. During the final stretch, Chiefland moved from fifth-place to third in the district.
"We learned how to compete this season," Kyle Parnell said, "We matured as a team."
With eight starters returning, a a new-found maturity, Chielfand’s players may be able to look past a 2012 season that ended earlier than the would have liked and to a 2013 season that ends further than they dreamed.