Lexington’s Brandon Camp stepped to the plate with two outs and Nick Ciuffo on second base in the bottom of the eighth inning of Friday’s Class 4A Lower State title game, and he hoped one of the next few pitches would be his chance to be a hero for his team.
The third pitch was the answer to his prayers.
His RBI double into the left field corner sealed a 2-1 victory for top-ranked Lexington (26-4) and set up an all-local affair in the state championship series. The Wildcats face Blythewood in the best-of-three series starting Monday.
“I was thinking anything close,” Camp said. “I was looking for a fastball; I got that fastball where I wanted it and just ... it just feels unreal right now.”
Camp was not with the Wildcats in 2012 when the squad was eliminated from the Lower State final. But it was clear how much his team wanted this to be the year they broke through.
“We talked about this being redemption Friday,” coach Bryan Hucks said. “This is almost a year to the day that we got eliminated. So, tonight was for the guys from 2012. Next week’s for the 2013 guys.”
The Wildcats had led through most of the game. In the second inning, Cameron Matthews scored on a Cody Smith ground ball with an error from South Aiken error.
But in the top of the sixth, South Aiken got three hits and tied the game with Evan Kearse’s single into center.
Lexington seemed set to answer in the seventh, when Jordan Buster led with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Smith. Ryan Brown followed with a double, but the Thoroughbreds tagged Buster trying to slide home and picked up the next out to force extra innings.
In the eighth, Nick Ciuffo worked another leadoff walk. The next two batters went down as South Aiken’s Taylor Widener posted his fifth strikeout of the night. Then Camp delivered.
Both Ciuffo and Camp were mobbed by teammates after the game-winning run, and Hucks praised Camp for being ready to be his team’s hero.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to come,” Hucks said.
Lexington, which last reached the state title series in 2003, will host Blythewood on Monday at 7 p.m.