Clovis High was four outs from taking home the USA Baseball National High School Invitational championship trophy Friday.
But Chadwick Word's three-run double with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning lifted The First Academy of Orlando, Fla., to a 5-3 victory against the Cougars at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Both teams had gone 3-0 to reach the final of the tournament that drew 16 of the nation's top programs.
Clovis, 17-3 and ranked No. 1 in the Central Section by The Bee, stranded 11 runners from the third through sixth innings to open the door for the Royals (18-2).
Trailing 3-2, The First Academy received a leadoff single from Trenton Fiscus in the sixth. But the Cougars appeared to be in good shape when third baseman McCarthy Tatum caught Kyle Connell's sacrifice attempt and fired to first to double off Fiscus.
Clovis junior Masyn Ashworth, who had been outstanding in relief since the fourth inning, then gave up a single to Nick Gavin and was replaced by knuckleballer Gavin Brar.
The senior right-hander gave up a single to Ryan Melnick and a walk to Adam Haseley before hanging a knuckler to Word, who drilled it down the left-field line, clearing the bases for a 5-3 lead.
"That's Gavin's spot in the game," Cougars coach James Patrick told USAbaseball.com. "He's our sixth-inning guy when we need him. That's what he's used to, and typically he's been very effective for us.
"It's baseball. We go back and throw a fastball in that situation, maybe we win that pitch. But you can't have it back. His pitch is a knuckleball, and he got beat with his best pitch."
Peyton Hopkins worked 32/3 innings of two-hit relief to earn the win.
He entered with one out and the bases loaded in the fourth after the Cougars had scored three times. But he got their Nos. 3-4 hitters, Jake Gatewood and Alan Crowley, to ground into forceouts to third baseman Fiscus.
And it was also Fiscus who ended the game in spectacular fashion by charging Evan Steele's check-swing grounder, fielding it barehanded and gunning to first to beat him in a bang-bang play.
Clovis scored off Royals starter Thomas Headley in the fourth on R.J. Hartmann's triple, Cody Murray's RBI single, Matt Sparks' single, Kellen Araki's RBI single, Tatum's single and a run-scoring single by Tevin Mitchell.
The Cougars return to Tri-River Athletic Conference play Tuesday night at Clovis East.