Will Inman has been at the helm of the Carlisle baseball program for four seasons. In 2016, the Chiefs were bounced from the VISAA Division III state tournament by Southampton Academy in the quarterfinal round. The following season, the same two teams met up and the Raiders again knocked the Chiefs out, this time in the state semifinals. Last season, Carlisle got back to the state semifinals, only to get eliminated by Walsingham Academy.
On Thursday, the Chiefs again took the field at Shepherd Stadium in the state semifinals, and for the third time in four years met up with Southampton Academy in a win-or-go-home matchup. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they suffered the same fate. The Raiders only came across one run on the night, but it was enough for the No. 3 seeded Southampton Academy to top No. 2 Carlisle, 1-0.
The calling card for Carlisle all season long has been timely hitting, but Southampton right-hander Trey Dundlow didn’t allow that to happen Thursday afternoon. The tall junior threw nothing straight. Even his fastball had cutting action to it, and the Chiefs were never able to get comfortable in the box against him. Dundlow pitched all seven innings for the Raiders, allowing four hits, walking two, hitting two, and striking out five.
“The timely hitting just wasn’t there today and sometimes that’s just how it goes,” Inman said. “The guy just threw a great game against us today.”
The Chiefs had the bases loaded with two outs in the third, a runner at second base in the fifth with two outs, and another runner on second in the seventh with one out, but each time Dundlow caught the Carlisle hitters off-balanced and induced soft outs to the infield.
On the other side, the Chiefs rode their senior ace Tyler Nuckols. It wasn’t the Averett commit’s best day on the mound, but the senior right-hander still held the Raiders to just one run on eight hits and three walks while striking out 12 over six innings.
“Tyler threw an unbelievable game with his probably close to worst stuff I’ve seen him have all year. Fastball command is his thing and he didn’t have it today, but the kid battled,” Inman said. “He couldn’t throw a fastball over the plate to save his life, but he battled.”
Nuckols is one of the two seniors that will not return next season. The other is Bryce Hall, a Randolph College basketball commit who joined the baseball team this season.
“(Nuckols) is a great kid, and he’s not a kid. He’s a great man. He’s going to do great things in life, whether it’s baseball or in life,” Inman said of his ace. “He’ll run through a wall for you. I’ve had him for four years. When I came in he was a freshman. He was my No. 1 then and… he’s still my No. 1. We lived and died with him all four years and he just did so much for our program and building it.”
Hall may not have played as big of a role for the Chiefs as Nuckols in terms of production, but Inman said he couldn’t forget to praise Hall’s leadership for the team and what that meant to the Chiefs this season.
“Bryce was a huge pick up,” Inman said. “This guy is the most positive influencer you’ve ever seen. He keeps the guys up, he keeps them in the game, he keeps them loose… he’s going to go great things, too.”
Thursday marked the third consecutive season the Chiefs have reached the state semifinals, all of which they have fallen short of reaching the state championship game. Six of the players who took the field for the Chiefs Thursday were in uniform in 2016 when they made their first semifinals trip.
“That’s the way baseball is. I played eight and a half years of professional baseball and sometimes the punches roll your way, sometimes they don’t. But when they do it makes it better,” Inman said. “It just makes it sweeter when we do.”
The season comes to an end with a 19-5 record, a season that saw the Chiefs win 17 straight games at one point.
“We played great all year. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. We worked so hard. God, we worked so hard that nothing we can do on the field really deteriorates from that,” Inman said. “You can’t take away from the work they put in because they put in a lot of work.”
With just two players set to graduate, Carlisle is in good position when they return next spring with juniors Trey Carter, a Florida State baseball commit, Wiggy Clark, Nick Duncan, Juan Vascones and Jake Tisdale, as well as sophomores Addison Clark, Garrett Kangas and Dixon Erwin, and freshman Kale Richardson among those who played prominent roles this season.
No. 2 Southampton 1,
No. 2 Carlisle 0
S – 000 010 0 – 1 9 1
C – 000 000 0 – 0 4 0
WP – T. Dundlow – 7IP, 4H, 2BB, 0R, 5K, 93 pitches, 61 strikes
LP – T. Nuckols – 6 IP, 8H, 3BB, 1ER, 12K, 110 pitches, 70 strikes
Southampton hitters: J. Harmon 3-4, run scored; S. Rawlings 2-4, 2B; C. Belter 1-3, RBI, BB; W. Jernigan 1-4, 2B; J. Smiley 1-4; T. Dundlow 0-4; B. Hanscome 1-4; K. Jenkins 0-1, 2BB; R. Evans 0-2, sac bunt
Carlisle hitters: W. Clark 2-3, HBP; T. Carter 0-4; A. Clark 0-2, BB, G. Kangas 0-3; T. Nuckols 0-1, BB, HPB; D. Irwin 0-3; N. Duncan 1-3; K. Richardson 1-3; J. Vascones 0-2, sac bunt
Carlisle pitcher: W. Clark – IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 0K, 6 pitches, 6 strikes