Bryce Deatherage couldn't wait to get back on the baseball field with his teammates.
“It was rough to watch the whole year,” the Red Oak junior said. “It made me more ready to come back once I was able to.”
Deatherage punctuated his return in a big way Saturday, pitching seven strong innings to help the Eagles to their third consecutive Class B spring championship with a 7-2 win over Asher.
Deatherage missed most of the season's first two months after breaking his hand in the Eagles' semifinal basketball loss to Coyle.
“He threw a masterpiece,” Red Oak third baseman Dylan Fazekas said. “It was just a gem.
“We just kind of started measuring everything by outs, starting at 21. We just kept checking on him to make sure he was all right and he always was.”
For Fazekas, the reality of it being his final high school game hit him when he stepped to the plate in the seventh with his team up 4-2.
“It was kind of surreal knowing that it was going to be my last at-bat here and it might be my last at-bat ever,” Fazekas said. “I've played with one of our other seniors (Devan Crose) for forever. We've been playing together for 12 years. I can't believe it's over.”
Fazekas made the most of his final at-bat, lacing an RBI single into right-center. Another run scored on an error on the play.
Fazekas finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
Crose started Red Oak's two-out rally in the seventh with a hard single of his own. The Eagles wound up adding three in the inning to give Deatherage some insurance heading into his last inning.
“We've just got a bunch of gutsy kids that just find a way to win,” Eagles coach Trey Booth said. “If you take them man-by-man, we're probably not the best team around but when you put them all together, it's just a special group. They really, really get after it and put in the work.”
For the seniors, the win was the fourth title overall. Red Oak also won the 2010 fall title.
“This is my last one, so it's the most special,” said Fazekas, who will pitch at Seminole State.
After needing nine innings to get past Olustee 2-1 in Friday's opening round, Red Oak took advantage of its opposition's mistakes in both games Saturday to take the title.
The Eagles beat Lookeba-Sickles 9-4 in the semifinals just before playing Asher and getting the sterling performance out of Deatherage, who allowed five hits and no earned runs.
“I just fed off the confidence that coach had in me,” Deatherage said.