Posted: Thursday, 23 May 2013 8:35PM

Willard rallies to reach 2nd straight Final Four



WILLARD, Mo. -- Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

After losing eight seniors from last year's Final Four team a return to state seemed unlikely for Willard this season.  On Thursday they did just that, rallying to beat Rock Bridge 3-2 behind the complete game effort of senior Justin Atchison (9-0) who stretched his career record to 17-0.

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"It's an expectation inside our program," said Atchison, an Evangel baseball signee.  "We knew we could get back to the Final Four and we did, and it's awesome!"

The game was scoreless until the 4th inning when Rock Bridge junior Kyle Teter singled home a pair of runs with two outs.  From there Atchison was flawless.  A closer last year who was vaulted into the ace role after fellow senior Austin Reaves went down with injury early in the season.

"It was good for Atchison to battle through that," said Willard head coach Scott McGee.  "All year he's come through and he came through again for us today."

Willard rallied in the 5th inning for the second straight game and second straight day (sectionals vs. Branson).  Sophomore Patrick Latham got things started with an opposite field single driving home Jay Snook. 

Senior Keaton Presley tied it up on another base hit the other way, scoring freshman Kyle Smith.  The comeback was complete with Michael Pfeifer's sac fly to center field.  All three runs were scored by the bottom of the order.

"They were pounding the outside," said Latham.  "We changed our approach a little and started going to right field."

Willard tied the school record of 22 wins for the third straight season.  They'll look to break that record Friday in O'Fallon when they face St. Louis CBC at 4:00 pm in the class 5 semifinals.  Atchison will get the start looking for his 10th win of the season.

"Last year's seniors taught us a lot," said Atchison, who has allowed just 11 runs in his last nine starts.  "We're basically brothers.  We've played together since 2nd grade.  We work well together and it works out."

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