KINGMAN - Carter Rhoades's teammates needed him to step up in a big way during the winner-take-all Section V game against Chino Valley Thursday at Lee Williams High School.
And he did.
"He did what we know Carter can do," said LWHS baseball coach James Mayfield. "Give him the ball. He loves the challenge, and he did well with that challenge. He did what we expected him to do."
Lee Williams (12-3, 6-0) led 6-2 in the top of third, but Chino (9-9, 5-1) had put one run across and had the bases loaded with no outs. Volunteers' starter Nate Cottrell looked uncomfortable on the mound, and Mayfield brought Rhoades in to try and put the fire out.
The first batter the southpaw faced singled to right field that allowed one of the inherited runners to score, but Rhoades wasn't fazed.
"I knew we could get out of it," Rhoades said. "We were just one pitch from a groundball. I'm just trying to throw strikes and get some groundballs for my solid infielders."
Rhoades struck out the next two and then got that groundball by inducing one to second baseman Russell Cottrell to quiet Chino and keep the lead, 6-3.
The Cougars scratched out a run in the fifth, but Rhoades retired 12 of the final 16 Chino batters. He earned the win allowing the one run on four hits and one walk. He struck out five. Cottrell pitched two innings, surrendered three runs on five hits and two walks. Cottrell struck out three.
Lee Williams grabbed the early lead in the first when Rhoades singled and advanced to third on the first of Nate Cottrell's three doubles. Kenyon Rowley's first of five runs batted in came on a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Rhoades.
Every Volunteer batted in the second inning as Lee Williams put five runs on the scoreboard. Patrick Valencia led off with a single, Mike Bathauer walked, and Colin McMullen singled to load the bases. Paul Giglio laced a two-run double into right-center to score Valencia and Bathauer, McMullen scored on a wild pitch, Cottrell's second double drove in Giglio, and then Rowley singled in Cottrell.
The Lee Williams bats went eerily quiet for three innings and Chino cut the lead down to two, 6-4. The Vols came to bat looking for some insurance runs in the sixth and got them.
McMullen and Rhoades singled to open the inning, and Chino walked Nate Cottrell - who was 3-for-3 with three doubles, two runs scored and an RBI - intentionally to face the cleanup batter, Rowley.
Rowley knew what his job was as walked from the on-deck circle to the batter's box.
"I'm just trying to get a base hit and pass it on to the next guy to keep it going," Rowley said.
Rowley cracked a shot that bounced off of the left-field fence to score all three with a stand-up double. Chino tried at least get at least Cottrell at the plate, but he was only five strides behind Rhoades and slid in safely. Matt Shaw then singled to drive in courtesy runner Sean Roby.
"It felt wonderful," Rowley said. "I had just missed on the pitch before, and this was the same exact pitch."
Lee Williams wraps up the regular season hosting Wickenburg (7-6, 2-3) at 3:45 p.m. Monday. Win or lose, the Volunteers are the 2016 Division III, Section V champions.
"We're not letting up at all," Rowley said. "We're going to keep rolling into the state tournament."
The playoffs begin Friday in Surprise.