SHADY HILLS — There were times when Marc Brakeman was off his game.
The Shorecrest sophomore allowed five hits, including a double. He walked one batter. He almost hit another.
But when the Chargers needed Brakeman to make a big pitch, he would reach back and throw one that disappeared below an unsuspecting hitter's bat.
Pretty soon, it was the seventh inning, and Brakeman was still out there, still mowing them down.
Bishop McLaughlin had a fighting chance against Brakeman's worst pitches. But the Hurricanes were no match for Brakeman's best, and as a result, Shorecrest squeaked by with a 3-2 victory in the Class 2A region final.
The Chargers (22-8) advance to the state final four for the first time since 1991.
"Brakeman made the right pitches at the right time," Shorecrest coach Don Reed said. "He had his curveball and fastball working and battled with everything."
Brakeman was efficient and economical in the first four innings, striking out seven and facing 15 batters on just 57 pitches.
Then in the fifth inning, the Hurricanes found some offensive life when Cy Beermann led off with a single. Mitch Ritter, a pinch runner who came in for Beermann, stole second, stole third and went home on an error.
Bishop McLaughlin (20-10) added another run on a double by Dre Leal that brought home Mike Bennett, who reached on a fielder's choice.
But the Chargers answered in the top of the sixth.
Spencer Heath was hit by a pitch and John Oorlog drew a walk to start the sixth inning. Jason Kiracofe followed with a sacrifice bunt to move both runners. Tyler Larson, the No. 7 hitter, then tied the score with a two-run double.
Two batters later, No. 9 hitter Jake Brandenburg had what would be the winning hit, a single that drove in Larson.
"I knew we were capable of rallying and the bottom of the order came up huge for us," Reed said. "They did a good job of battling."
Brakeman took care of things after that. He retired the side in the final two innings, including three straight strikeouts to end the game.
"I realized it was up to me in the last two innings to get us to state," said Brakeman, who finished with 12 strikeouts.
"I was able to pull it together and get it done."
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org