SAVANNAH -- It was the kind of situation baseball players dream about from the time they first start throwing the ball around in the yard as kids.
With a berth in the Class AA Final Four on the line, Benedictine senior John McCarthy was on the mound trying to protect a one-run lead against Wesleyan, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Wesleyan's No. 3 hitter -- Griffin Bone -- was at the plate. He drove a line shot to center field, where BC sophomore Brad Stewart is known for his golden glove. Stewart had a good read on the ball, but stumbled momentarily before regaining his balance and making a diving forehand catch about 10 feet in front of the fence.
The Cadet players and coaches exploded out of the dugout and into center field for an impromptu celebration. BC fans jumped the fence in center to join in the festivities.
Years from now, Stewart's play will be remembered as BC's version of "The Catch" -- an effort that preserved a 4-3 win over Wesleyan and propelled the Cadets into the Class AA Final Four.
The Cadets (29-4) took the best of three series after dropping the first game.
"I was playing back because he was the No. 3 hitter and he just killed the ball," Stewart said. "I started to run back and kind of tripped, but I was close enough to dive for it and make the catch. It was scary. I was thinking it was do or die right there, so I had to go for it."
It was an incredible ending to a high quality game. Bone had an RBI single in the first inning to put Wesleyan up 1-0, and the Wolves went up 2-0 on an RBI single by Johnny Richards in the fourth.
But BC's lefty Trey Tatum was solid all day. The sophomore doesn't have high velocity stuff, but he threw strikes and kept the ball down in the strike zone to keep the Wolves off balance.
"We keep putting Trey in that situation and he keeps pitching to contact and getting the job done," BC coach Kevin Farmer said. "And the play by Stewart -- what an outstanding catch. Brad had been hitting the ball hard all day and had nothing to show for it. We just told him to keep playing defense. I'm really proud of the boys for their work ethic and never say die attitude."
After three scoreless innings, the Cadets broke through for three runs in the fourth. Chipper Wiley started the rally with a single up the middle, with Alex Pierce entering to run for him. Connor Beytagh was hit by a pitch, setting the table for standout freshman Ryan Woiwode, who hit a shot down the left field line for an RBI single. The runners advanced to second and third on the throw home, and catcher Ben DeBorde brought them both home with a flare just out of the reach of Wesleyan shortstop Jahmai Jones.
The Cadets added an insurance run in the fifth. Mike Huggins laid a sacrifice bunt down the third baseline -- with Wesleyan's Johnny Richards making the throw for the out at first. But Benedictine sophomore Joseph Holguin made a heads up move on the base paths -- realizing that third base was open he decided to go for it and never slowed down as he rounded second. Richards tried to get back to cover the bag, but he was late and the throw from first was in the dirt as Holquin came around to score.
"That aggressive base running turned out to be a key component of the game," Farmer said.
So did the pitching of Tatum, who worked into the bottom of the seventh -- giving way to McCarthy with one out and the bases loaded.
"I put John (McCarthy) into a bit of a mess, but I was confident he'd get out of it," said Tatum, who improved to 6-0 this year. "I got a little scared there, but he came through. This is the kind of environment you dream about as a player, and it makes it way easier when you have teammates backing you like we do."
McCarthy faced the Wolves' best hitter, Jones, and got him to ground into a 6-4 fielder's choice -- driving in a run. He walked Brandon Moss to load the bases before facing Bone, which led to Stewart's dramatic game-ending catch.
"This is the most hard-fought game I've ever been a part of," Stewart said. "Both teams were battling, I loved it."
It was a tough way to end the season for Wesleyan and Brian Krehmeyer, in his second year as the Wolves head coach.
"I don't know what is a tougher pill to swallow, to lose by 15 runs or to lose like that," Krehmeyer said. "He stumbled and that ball could have dropped. It's a game of inches. But I'm proud of this team. Not many thought we could get to the Elite Eight and get to a game three. This senior class has been more valuable collectively than they were individually. They showed great leadership and fight and left a legacy at Wesleyan."