For the last two days, Jake Cave did his best to keep his arm loose and not go crazy. Tuesday night, after the second try was washed out, he ventured over to Stoney Run to cheer on Kecoughtan's softball team. Until finally, under Wednesday afternoon's sunny skies, it was showtime.
In the biggest game of his career (so far), Cave was raring to go. He struck out 12 with a mixture of fastballs and offspeed pitches as third-seeded Kecoughtan held on for a 4-2 win over Menchville in the Peninsula District semifinals at War Memorial Stadium.
The Warriors played top-seeded Woodside in the championship game, which was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Kecoughtan will open in the Eastern Region quarterfinals against Southeastern District champion Great Bridge Monday at 1 p.m. All regional games will be played at the Bud Metheny Complex in Norfolk.
The semifinal began Monday at 7:12 p.m. but was stopped 46 minutes later — in the bottom of the third with the Warriors leading 3-0 — because of rain. The game was to resume the following afternoon at 6, but another storm drenched that.
"I've been ready to go the last two days no matter what," Cave said. "I've been waking up, I've been stretching, I've been doing everything I can to keep my arm ready. But I came out here today and my arm felt great.
"I started to wear out a little at the end. I had to go mostly on adrenalin."
Cave (6-3) threw 108 pitches for the game — 32 in Monday's two innings, 76 in Wednesday's five. He allowed four hits and two runs, both of which were unearned. He struck out four with his fastball, which topped at 94 miles per hour, four with his curve, and four with his change.
Deshorn Lake pitched three innings Monday night, but Menchville coach Phil Forbes went with left-hander Evan Forrest when play resumed Wednesday. Forrest was outstanding, giving up one hit and an unearned run in four innings.
"Deshorn wanted the ball, but I told him he had too big a future in front of him," Forbes said. "I didn't want him to take a chance on hurting himself. But I was very proud of Evan Forrest and the way he controlled the hill out there."
When play was stopped Monday night, Kecoughtan (15-7) led 3-0 in the bottom of the third. Eric Palmer's RBI groundout plated the first run, and Darnell Ware drove in two more with a single in the third.
"The delay was weird, but we kept the same mentality," Ware said. "We came out and knew we were going to win this game. We said all year we'd go to regionals, and we did it."
Kecoughtan made it 4-0 when Nick Novak scored on Emory Chopp's throwing error in the top of the sixth. The Monarchs (18-4) cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning but left runners on first and second.
In the bottom of the seventh, Cave got the first two outs on ground balls before Jeff Gray singled to right. Josh Moore than grounded hard to shortstop, where Ware initially bobbled it. But his throw to Novak at second was just in time for the final out.
Kecoughtan coach Chad Ochsenfeld visited the mound once in the sixth but said he never thought about going to a reliever.
"Nope," he said. "Jake would have beaten me up if I had tried to pull him. He's a man out there. I graduated in 1988. That's the greatest high school baseball player I've ever seen, period. He's going to be a star."
NO. 3 KECOUGHTAN 4, NO. 2 MENCHVILLE 2
Kecoughtan;012;001;0—4 5 2
Menchville;000;002;0—2 4 4
WP: Cave (6-3). LP: Lake (8-3). Standouts: Kecoughtan, Ware 1-4 (2 RBI), Cave (12 strikeouts, 0 ER). Records: Kecoughtan 15-7, Menchville 18-4.