With his team down 4-0 against No. 3 Hammond, Atholton coach Kevin Kelly pulled starter Jamie Williams in the third inning, assigned him to left field and whispered in his ear as he took the game ball.
"Keep your head in the game," Kelly said. "You're going to have a chance to win it for us in the end."
Kelly's encouragement proved prophetic as Williams doubled home the go-ahead run, completing the comeback and propelling the No. 6 Raiders (9-1) to a 6-5 victory over the previously unbeaten Golden Bears on Friday at Atholton.
"Defensively, we didn't play well in the beginning," Kelly said. "But we hung in there, got some timely hits in the end and, most importantly, got the win."
After Williams walked Hammond's first batter to start the third inning, Jonathan Thews took the ball for the Raiders in the third and stifled Hammond for the duration of the game. He pitched the final five innings, struck out seven batters and allowed just three hits and one earned run.
"I really wanted this one," said Thews, who also went 2-for-3 with an RBI. "I know some kids on that team and I knew if we lost I'd never hear the end of it."
The Golden Bears (9-1) played small ball and took advantage of some Raiders fielding miscues in the first two innings, building a 4-0 lead. But things changed in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Hammond coach Mike Lerner pulled pitching ace Danny Wissmann, who struck out five in the no-decision, in favor of Jared Christiansen, who hadn't pitched yet this season. The Raiders got to Christiansen, scoring four in the inning to tie things up.
"We had [Wissmann] on a pitch count," Lerner said. "He was going on three days rest, and not taking anything away from Atholton, but I hate doing that."
Hammond scored in the top of the sixth off of a double steal to break the tie, but Raiders shortstop Kory Britton tripled and then scored on a wild pitch to even things up again. Three batters later, with runners on first and second, Williams came through with his only hit of the game, doubling home the winning run.