The Lexington Wildcats' dream of a state 4A baseball crown ended Friday night with a 2-1 loss to Ashley Ridge in the Lower State championship.
Despite trailing nearly the entire game 1-0, the Swamp Foxes tied the game in the final stanza, sending the game into extra innings. Ashley Ridge finally won at the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
Lexington now goes home, and the Swamp Foxes will travel from their home in Summerville to take on the Byrnes High School Rebels next week for the state championship in a best 2-of-3 series.
Despite the loss, and the end of an incredible playoff run that the Wildcats had dedicated to 13-year-old Kennedy Branham, who is battling cancer, the season was nonetheless phenomenal for its remarkable reversal of fortune from 2011.
Under new coach Brian Hucks, the Wildcats spent a good portion of this year ranked number one, finishing the season 27-4 -- versus a 10-15 record last season.
Ashley Ridge, the state's second-ranked team -- which beat White Knoll and then Lexington twice in the playoffs to advance to the championship series -- heads to face Byrnes with a 29-1 record.
"I love these young men, and we battled together," Hicks told Lexington's WLXM-FM 107.9 radio after the game. "I told these seniors they were responsible for the turnaround, and that I'm very proud of these young men. They're taking it hard right now and this loss is a tough lesson, but these are some awesome young men.
"They are an unbelievable group, and as good a group as I've ever been around in my life, and I'm just so proud to be a part of them and what they've accomplished," Hucks added. "This is tough. We felt like we could get to the big stage, but it wasn't meant to be this year. Ashley Ridge was the better team, and we've got to give credit to them."