South started slow, with county rival Cloverdale building a 5-1 advantage after four innings. The Eagles stayed patient and confident, though, pulling even in the fourth before adding four more runs in the sixth to take home a 9-5 victory.
"Give a lot of credit to South Putnam," Clover coach Tim Savini said. "They kept fighting back -- fighting, fighting, fighting."
The trouble began early for Eagle starter Derek Cash. Josh Flory led off the game with a double. Brandon Mescall then drove him in with another double. Mescall later scored when Chad Cummings reached on an error. Then Zak Osburn doubled in Cummings.
"We came out flat. We weren't real sharp," South coach Harold Campbell said. "They jumped on Derek Cash early."
The Eagles got one back in the second when Cameron Chestnut came home on an error, but the Clovers were back at it again in the third, with Mescall again leading the attack. He led off with a single and was driven in three batters later by Ryan Shoulders. Shoulders later came home on a throwing error.
After the final out of the third, Cash was done on the mound. He finished allowing five runs on seven hits and one walk. He struck out five Clovers in his three innings of work.
Campbell went to his bullpen early, feeling the need to keep the game relatively close. He felt eventually, his hitters would come to life.
"We knew they would start Cody Nees. He's a tough pitcher, so we knew it was going to be a tough game," Campbell said. "We felt like the longer we kept coming up against Cody, we'd have our moments."
Those moments began in the fourth.
Steinbaker led off the inning with a walk. Adam Hammond reached on an error two batters later. With two outs, Brad Eickhoff doubled to center to bring in Steinbaker.
Then Noah Boswell collected the biggest hit of the night. Aided by a tail wind, Boswell hit a monster shot to left field over the high outfield fence of Cascade. The homer tied the game and reassured the Eagles they could pull this one out.
"That was a momentum-changer," Campbell said.
In the top half of the fifth, Hammond made a play defensively that likely saved some runs. With a runner on first and nobody out, Cloverdale's Jeff Dale hit a line drive toward left-center. Before it could reach the outfield, though, Hammond, one of the smallest guys on the field, jumped up and caught the drive midair. He then turned and threw to first, doubling off the Cloverdale runner.
Campbell knew it was a game where some plays just went his team's way. His team made a few plays, while the Clovers missed a few.
"We had a couple of big plays," he said. "We caught some breaks tonight. Their defense had some play that hurt them."
Savini echoed this sentiment, saying he got a good pitching performance from Cody Nees and some good hits. His defense just missed a few plays. He said most of the year, his team could only get one or two out of the three.
"We hit the ball well. I thought Cody pitched a good game. If we make a couple more good plays in the field, we're out of those innings," Savini said.
The Eagles broke the game open in the sixth. After two straight walks, Savini pulled his starter. It was exactly what Campbell had been waiting for.
"Once Cody went out of the game, we felt we could open it up, and we were able to do that," he said.
Flory came in and had the dangerous Boswell at bat. After first base opened on a passed ball, the Clovers chose to walk him. When a wild pitch got past the catcher, the Eagles grabbed a 6-5 lead. The next three batters continued to add runs. A John Davidson single, a Chestnut sacrifice fly and a Cash double each added runs. A four-run lead was more than enough with South's number one pitcher on the mound.
Adam Nees had come into the game in the sixth and retired the side. Although he opened the seventh with a walk, he retired the next three single-handedly, striking out two and tagging another on his way to first.
It was Adam Nees' second win of the postseason, and he will likely be South's starter tonight in the championship game.
"We're excited about playing for a sectional championship. We thought we really had a shot," Campbell said.
Campbell understands that North Putnam is the favorite in the final. The Cougars are 3-0 against the Eagles this year. However, in the county championship game, the score was 6-4. If not for a couple of untimely errors from the Eagles, they played the Cougars even.
"We want to win. We didn't start our number one (Adam Nees) so we could have him tomorrow," Campbell said. "You get in the championship game, and anything can happen."
Campbell was especially excited to take a team with so many young players to a sectional championship.
"For these freshmen to come out and play in a sectional championship is going to be a great experience. They're just going to expect to be there," he said.
For Savini, his young team came up a bit short, but he expressed his pride just the same.
"I'm proud of our guys. They worked hard all year. Unfortunately we weren't able to make a couple plays. At sectional time that can be the difference," he said. The Clovers finsih the season 4-20.
South Putnam (10-16) takes the field tonight at 7 p.m. against North Putnam. Campbell wants his team to have the chance to fight for a championship.
"We're going to come out and fight. We want to win it," Campbell said.
Sectional 44 Semifinal
Cloverdale 302 000 0 -- 5 9 3
South Putnam 010 404 X -- 9 7 3
C. Nees, Flory (6) and Mescall (Cl). De. Cash, Steinbaker (4) and Dean; A. Nees (6) and Boswell (SP).
W -- A. Nees
L -- C. Nees
2B -- Flory, Mescall, Osburn (Cl), Eickhoff, De. Cash (SP).
HR -- Boswell (SP).
Next game -- South Putnam will face North Putnam in the Sectional 44 Championship tonight at 7:30 p.m.