GREENSBORO — Tripp Shelton flirted with it during the first two games and he finally delivered for his team.
Shelton nearly hit a home run in his first at-bat of the series, sending the ball to the warning track in left. Later in Game 1, Shelton hit the fence in center for a triple.
Then in Game 3, the UNC Greensboro signee turned on a hanging curveball to sent the ball over the fence in left center to spark West Forsyth to a 6-3 victory over Richmond Senior in the decisive Game 3 of the 4A state championship series Saturday afternoon at UNC Greensboro Baseball Stadium.
It is the first state title for the Titans after finishing as runners-up in 2002. The Raiders have now finished second in their last two appearances in the state finals (2000) after capturing four titles in 1973 (3A), 1974, 1976 and 1983 (4A).
Shelton’s shot gave his team a 4-0 lead in the second inning. The Titans would extend their advantage to 6-0 in the fourth.
“In my last three at-bats, I saw curveballs on the first pitch. I was sitting dead red on the curve,” Shelton said. “I put a good swing on it and it went out. It felt great to put three runs up for my team.”
Shelton finished the series 3 for 11 with a home run, three RBIs and scored four runs.
“He’s a good hitter,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “I thought he and (Alex) Vanderstok were the keys in the series.”
Vanderstok was selected as the series’ MVP. The sophomore was 7 of 12, scored four runs and with an RBI in the three games. He was 3-for-4 with a double and a triple in the decisive Game 3.
That offensive outburst was more than enough for West Forsyth starting pitcher Jake Mayhew. The junior was making his first start since April 4. Mayhew pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, three earned runs, walking three and striking out two.
“It’s been a long time since he pitched that long,” West Forsyth coach Brad Bullard said. “He threw for us doing conference play especially in long relief. I couldn’t ask more from him.”
Bullard pulled Mayhew in the sixth with two outs and runners on first and second. Bullard inserted Game 2 starter Travis Holden into the game. Holden was taken out after 1 2/3 innings in Richmond’s 8-7 come-from-behind victory.
“Travis Holden wanted the ball,” Bullard said. “I know he didn’t throw his best game earlier in the day. We had a couple of defensive miscues behind him.”
Holden got out of the jam by coaxing Bradley Brown to ground out to second.
After Joe Butler retired the Titans in order in the seventh, the Raiders tried to find a little more seventh-inning magic. Earlier in the day, Richmond rallied to score two runs to pull out the win.
James Buie singled to open the frame. Ethan Baucom followed with a single to center. On the play, Buie raced to third as Aaron Stamper’s throw was wide of the bag. However, Buie over-slid the base and was tagged out by Vanderstok.
“I don’t know what happened,” Young said about the play.
Holden was able to settle down and recorded the final two outs, including striking out pinch hitter John Taylor to secure the save.
After receiving the runner-up trophy with his nine seniors, Young talked about the impact they made on the program. The team went 77-20-1 in the last three years, making the East Region final series in 2012 and 2013 before advancing to the state championship series this season.
“It’s going to be hard to replace these guys,” Young said. “They had a lot of wins. They helped establish our program.
“They gave me everything they had every time out.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.