By Brandon SpecK/Monroe Journal
AMORY – Why not? The opening round of the 2010 MHSAA Class 4A baseball playoffs between Amory and Tishomingo County had already seen its share of excitement.
An ejection in the first game, lively crowds on each side, towering and difference-making home runs, errors in all the wrong places, game-changing plays, etc.
Why not bring on comebacks, pouring rains, a stubborn tarp and a three-hour, 45 minute marathon? Oh, and a junior pitcher who refused to watch Amory’s 2010 run come to an end.
All of that and more came in Amory’s 7-4 win in a decisive Game 3 of the opening-round series. The Panthers move on to face Lafayette.
Advancing required a lot of Amory ace Will Cox, a junior who came into the game with no outs in the first inning, a 2-0 deficit and runners on first and third.
“Will Cox showed what he had,” Amory coach Chad Williams said. “When we got back yesterday, he said he wanted on the mound. I thought he did a great job.”
Cox, who pitched Thursday’s six-inning 10-0 win two days earlier, surrendered an RBI single to Daniel Aday and watched another run score on a throwing error.
Cox (11-0), who relieved starter Blake Allen, struck out the next two, for the side, and allowed only three hits after that. He struck eight, 18 in two wins in the series.
“I just tried to throw strikes and let the defense work,” Cox said. “The defense made some awesome plays.”
Tishomingo (16-12) loaded the bases in the first with three straight singles and went ahead 2-0 on Jon Whirley’s two-run single.
Amory (23-4) battled back in bunches.
In the bottom of the first, the Panthers loaded the bases on walks, started by the pitch Zack Randolph took in the back. Against starter Jacob McDuffy (5-5), Drew Pickle’s RBI single plated pinch runner Daniel Simpson and put Amory on the board. Chandler Riggs added a two-run single to get Amory back in the game.
“Our kids have nothing to be ashamed of,” Tishomingo coach Jerry Long said. “I want to give credit to No. 10 (Cox). No. 10 was a man. He just took the game over. You’ve got to give credit to that cat on the mound.”
The Panthers took the lead for good in the third. Cox singled to open the inning and Pickle doubled. Riggs added on to his damage as well, ripping a two-run double to right center to put Amory ahead 5-4. Amory scored two more in the inning. Riggs scored when Forest Williams reached on a hard, mishandled shot that went to the outfield. Against reliever Whirley, Tanner Poole scored on Ryan Hill’s perfectly placed bunt down the first base line for a 7-4 lead.
“Chandler was seeing it real well,” Williams said. “Anytime anybody can come up and get big time hits for us in the playoffs, it going to be big.”
After a delay that included a soaked and heavy tarp that refused to be dragged across the whole infield, a broken scoreboard, a process to pump the water off the dirt around the plate and 90 minutes between pitches, the Braves got singles from Aday and Tanner Robinson, but two defensive plays from second baseman Hill helped Amory escape unharmed.