(David Jenkins photo)
After opening their district tournament with a 10-0 rout over East Carter, the Bluejays have pulled out three-straight contest with game-winning runs in the seventh.
Their most recent example came Monday afternoon in Class 2 Sectionals when, after trailing by as many as four runs to host Malden, Charleston rallied back to tie before scoring on a passed ball in the seventh to win 6-5.
"We absolutely fight till the end," Minner said. "The kids believe in what we're doing right now. There's just absolutely no quit. This is a group of winners and winners find ways to win. They've done that in the postseason for us."
Held to only one hit through the first four innings, Charleston found itself battling out of a 4-0 hole heading into the bottom of the fifth after the Green Wave posted a three-run rally in the top of the inning.
Rather than sulk, however, the Bluejays came out of a mid-inning pep talk from Minner to pump out five runs on four hits to take the lead for the first time in the contest.
After a pair of hits by Kamari Allmon and Marshall Stallings drove in a run apiece, it was cleanup hitter and starting pitcher Ethan Browning that drove in the next two runs to tie the game.
With runners on first and second with one out, Browning's shot to deep left field rolled back to the wall to score Stallings and James Naile before leaving Browning at third for the go-ahead run.
Next at bat, Danny McKinney hit a grounder to the third baseman, scoring Browning on a fielder's choice to put the Bluejays up 5-4.
"They came out and had us down 4-0," Browning said. "We could have easily quit, laid our heads down and said we made a good run for it, but it's over.
"We didn't. We came back and showed the heart that we have."
Added Stallings, "We keep battling. Coach just told us to keep fighting like we've been doing all year and we threw together a good inning there."
Though Malden battled back to a tie in the top of the sixth, the Bluejays got a big lift in the bottom of the seventh when No. 2 hitter Trey Watkins was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on first with one out.
Following a James Naile single to move Watkins over to third, Malden put McKinney back at the plate after intentionally walking Browning to load the bases in hopes of a inning-ending double play.
Before McKinney could take a swing, however, a 2-0 offering from Malden's pitcher glided to the backstop, sending Watkins into a full-on sprint home.
With the catcher unable to retrieve the ball fast enough, Watkins was able to avoid a play at the plate and cross home for the game-winning run.
"I just saw the pitch going to the plate and I could tell it was going to be low," Watkins said. "I got a good read on it, it bounced up and I saw it headed toward the backstop so I just took off as fast as I could.
"I knew I was the winning run so I was just giving it everything I had."
Pitching the last two innings in relief, Naile picked up his fourth win of the postseason. He allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out four.
In both of his innings on the mound, Naile was forced to work out of early inning jams, including the seventh where the winning run reached second with no outs. Keeping control, Naile was able to strike out two of the next three batters while inducing a ground out to maintain the tie.
"They were hitting me around a little bit," Naile said. "I really just wanted to keep throwing strikes and let the defense work. Sure enough we came through."
Starting and pitching through the fifth, Browning allowed four runs on five hits and five walks while striking out six.
After loading the bases with one out in the top of the first, Browning was able to get out of a crucial situation only allowing a single run before a strikeout and ground out got him out of the inning.
"What a tremendous job by E-Bo," Minner said of Browning. "He kept us in the ball game for five innings. If we make a few plays we probably have the lead, but he gave us all he had and was running out of gas so James comes in and shuts the door."
At the plate leading the Charleston's six hit performance both Naile and Browning had two hits apiece, including a pair of doubles by Browning. Rounding out the offense Allmon had a triple while Stallings had a single.
For the Green Wave, who finished the game with eight hits, Kyle LeMarr and and E.J. Stanley lead the way with a pair of singles each.
"We thought we had an opportunity early to get a few more runs than we did and when we didn't that kind of kept our spirits up," Malden coach Tim Harmon said. "First inning we could have blew it open. We got one instead and that kind of kept (Charleston) in the game."
Taking the loss for the Green Wave, Tanner Murphy pitched a complete game giving up six hits and four walks while striking out nine.
"Hats off to that kid," Stallings said of Murphy. "He threw his tail off today. We just started seeing some pitches in the later innings. He got a little wild and we capitalized on it."
With the win the Bluejays will host the winner of today's Valle Catholic and Crystal City sectional match-up on Wednesday at a time to be determined.
Malden 100 031 0 - 5 8
Charleston 000 050 1 - 6 6
WP -- James Naile. LP -- Tanner Murphy. 2B -- (C) Ethan Browning 2. 3B -- (C) Kamari Allmon.