By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
HAMILTON – Back at Hamilton for the first time since a broken MHSAA pitching rule forfeited Bruce from the North State playoffs last May, the Trojans (9-2, 4-1) capitalized on their opportunities Friday in a key Division 2-2A win against the Lions (8-3, 4-1).
Courtesy runner Devin Tillman scored on a dropped third strike in the top of the sixth inning to break a 2-all tie and lock up a 3-2 win following Tuesday’s 4-0 home loss against the Lions.
Bruce pitcher Reed Gregory gave up a pair of first-inning runs, throwing 29 pitches but settled down to finish the outing with 101 pitches.
“We needed that,” Bruce coach Sid Burt said. “There were two good teams out here. (Reed) was very efficient after (the first), threw a few more strikes and had a little more defensive help.”
Hamilton, which took a 2-0 lead in the first on Cole Gill’s bases-loaded walk and when Hamilton starter Austin Earnest reached on one of two Bruce errors, missed out on its chances. The Lions failed to get a necessary bunt down four times and left Chase Reeves standing at third base after a leadoff single, stolen base and advance to third with only one out in the fifth.
“You better do whatever you can to get them in. We had our opportunities,” Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said.
The Lions left the bases loaded in the first. In the sixth, Matthew Wilburn reached on one of two Hamilton errors and runner Tillman advanced to second on Gregory’s groundout and to third on a wild pitch before scoring the winning run.
“We made some errors that allowed them in scoring position. We’ve got to do what it takes to win,” Earnest said. “We didn’t do it tonight. They took advantage of our mistakes and we didn’t.”
Bruce pulled within a run in the second. Wilburn singled to open the inning and Tillman scored on Wiley Maddox’s double, one of three for Bruce.
The Trojans pulled even in the third. Jay Kind doubled to open the inning and advanced on a wild pitch. Hamilton shortstop Austin Welch saved one of his two runs with a snag of a liner from the bat of Matthew McDowell and on a 1-2 pitch to Tyler Kilcrease, King scored on a passed ball.
In the seventh against the top of Hamilton’s lineup, shortstop Barrett Wooten went far right to take a hit away from Graham Pritchett. After Parker Rye’s second single, Gregory got Reeves on a hard line drive to a perfectly-placed outfield and Welch on a strikeout, his sixth.
Earnest allowed only four hits in the loss.