05/17/12 — Chargers' turnaround started after late-March loss

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Chargers' turnaround started after late-March loss

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 17, 2012 1:48 PM

A quarterfinal-round appearance in the 2011 baseball playoffs didn't sit too well with Wayne Country Day during the offseason.

The Chargers let close contests slip away.

Head coach Michael Taylor felt his team had learned from those difficult defeats and would apply that knowledge on the diamond this spring. His thoughts quickly turned into worries when the Chargers fell victim to mental and physical errors, and compiled a 2-6 record through March.

WCDS' streak of nine consecutive playoff trips appeared in jeopardy.

"We lost some pretty heart-breaking games like Wayne Christian early in the season and the seniors got everyone together, got them motivated a little bit and we dropped the hammer on some of the younger guys," senior Cole Davis said.

Since that "pep talk," the Chargers have logged a 12-2 worksheet that included a season-best, eight-game win streak during April. Davis and his teammates earned a share of the program's third Coastal Plains Independent Conference regular-season title since 2007 with Taylor as the head coach.

Wayne Country Day (14-8 overall) secured its second trip to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A final four in the last three years with a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory over Epiphany on Tuesday afternoon. Davis belted a game-winning, walk-off home run -- his second of the season -- in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The Chargers beat the Falcons for the third time this season.

"It's tough to beat a team three times in one year, especially a team the caliber they are," Davis said of Epiphany. "They've been playing well and have been playing with a lot of heart. So, to come out on top of that (game) means a lot to this group.

"Our group is showing as much heart as any team I've ever been on."

Especially Davis.

The senior captain has been playing with a torn rotator cuff, but told Taylor he'd "do anything he could to help the team win." Fellow seniors Hil Tanner, Trent Proimos and Josh Jackson have stepped up at different times to keep the Chargers' late-season momentum going.

Tanner played a phenomenal game Tuesday afternoon. He pounded out two hits, gunned down two Epiphany runners who attempted to steal second base and stopped several pitches in the dirt that could have easily been wild pitches.

A four-year varsity player, Tanner also showed his leadership abilities when WCDS committed two fifth-inning errors. He asked the umpire for a timeout, left his mask near home plate and called everyone to the mound.

You couldn't hear what Tanner told his teammates, but the message was clear -- cut out the mistakes because one error could prove costly. The Chargers wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam and allowed just two Falcon runners to reach base over the final three innings of play.

WCDS needs to keep that mentality for the next two days -- practice this afternoon and Friday afternoon when it faces CPIC nemesis Greenfield in the semifinals at historic Fleming Stadium. The teams split their regular-season series.