By Mike Talbert
SALTILLO The Saltillo Tigers, led by senior southpaw Bill Diggs, have reached the finals of the first Division 1-3A Tournament.
Thursday Diggs led the Tigers to a 12-3 win over New Albany to guarantee Saltillo a berth in the first round of the state playoffs.
“I like the atmosphere of the do-or-die format,” Diggs said. “The whole team wanted to do that for the whole town.”
Diggs struck out 11 batters and walked three in a complete game six-hitter. At the plate, he was 3-for-3 with a home run and a double.
“This was the game we needed to get to the playoffs, and he got us there,” Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen said
Tuesday, Diggs also hit a pair of doubles and got the save in an 8-2 first-round win over Shannon.
Saltillo (16-8), the Division 1-3A round-robin leader, hosts Pontotoc (20-5) in the championship at 2 p.m. Saturday. The winner hosts the Division 2-3A runner-up in a doubleheader in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs April 27. The loser has to visit the Division 2-3A champion.
Pontotoc was a 10-0 winner over Kossuth in the other tournament semifinal.
Errors hurt both New Albany and Saltillo. The three runs surrendered by Diggs were unearned, including the two driven in by Pat Penson’s double in the fifth inning. That was about the time that Diggs, who threw 119 pitches, started showing signs of tiring.
“I just pulled through it. I think it was more mental than physical,” Diggs said.
Diggs had command of all his pitches, including a successful trial run of a new split-fingered pitch. “In the late innings my curveball was working real good,” he said.
New Albany errors, four in the first three innings, helped the Tigers take control of the game. Two errors in the third frame allowed the Tigers to score five runs and chase losing pitcher John Moffitt (5-1).
Saltillo made contact for 11 hits.
“Our pitchers weren’t getting the curve over and they were sitting on the fastball and driving it,” New Albany coach Buddy Hall said.
The Tigers added three runs in the fourth on a solo homer by Diggs and a two-run Cole Wilkerson double. They had three more in the sixth, starting with a solo homer by Jason Dickey. Jeff Dillard scored the final run on a Diggs sacrifice. It was the only at-bat Diggs didn’t reach base.
“I thought we hit the ball as well as we have all year,” Bolen said.
Saltillo 12, New Albany 3
New Albany 001 020 0 3 6 6
Saltillo 105 303 X 12 11 2
WP – Bill Diggs (7-2). LP – John Moffitt (5-0). Multiple Hits – (N) Moffitt 2; (S) Diggs 3, Cole Wilkerson 2. 2B – (N) Pat Penson; (S) Diggs, Alek Dillard. HR – (S) Diggs, Jason Dickey. Records: New Albany 20-12, Saltillo 16-8.
Notes: Diggs struck out 11 batters.