SALTILLO Two weeks past the time change the Saltillo Tigers were still unable to “spring forward” Saturday.
With playoff berths already decided, the Tigers couldn’t put the big inning together in a 10-5 loss to Pontotoc in the Division 1-3A Tournament championship game.
Timing was also a big factor in the Warriors’ offense. Of their 10 runs, eight came with two outs in the inning.
Pontotoc (21-5) opens the playoffs at home against the Division 2 runner-up Saturday. Saltillo (16-9) will travel to face the Division 2 champ, also Saturday.
“We’re playing about as good as we can play right now,” said Pontotoc coach Ben Patterson, who was without three players involved in a powerlifting meet Saturday. “We’ve been playing this way since the Saturday before Easter.”
Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen took comfort in the fact that the Tigers’ playoff fate was decided before the game.
“This game was just for home field advantage,” he said. “If we come together, we could see (Pontotoc) again.”
If so, the Tigers, a 5-3 regular season winner over Pontotoc, may not want to see Cory Armstrong on the mound. Armstrong gave up two early runs in a first inning which included a balk and two errors.
Saltillo’s Chi Wesson managed a solo home run off Armstrong in the third, but Armstrong was equal to a bases-loaded task in the sixth.
Trailing 9-3 and threatening a comeback, the Tigers filled the bases but could only score when Chris Brazeal drew a walk to force home a run. Armstrong got Saltillo slugger Bill Diggs to ground to second for the third out. Diggs was 0-for-4.
“That tells you what kind of day (Armstrong) had on the mound,” Bolen said. “He kept us off balance. I believe that’s the first game Bill’s been hitless.”
Armstrong gave up a lead-off walk in the seventh, and Wesson greeted reliever Myron Hereford with a double. But Hereford retired the next three batters to end the game.
“They had some clutch hits with two outs,” Bolen said. “But I didn’t think we were mentally into the game. We made some mistakes, and they cost us.”
The Warriors, though, got hits when they had to have them.
Armstrong and Lance Martin had back-to-back run-scoring hits as Pontotoc put four runs on the board with two outs in the third. That put the Warriors in control at 6-2, but they weren’t finished.
Pontotoc loaded the bases in the fifth on two errors and a walk. No. 8 hitter Eric Pitts then went the opposite way for a three-run double, again with two outs.
“We’ve scored a lot of runs all season,” Patterson said. “Now we’re getting good pitching and good defense too.”
Pontotoc 204 031 0 – 10 8 3
Saltillo 201 001 1 – 5 8 2
WP – Cory Armstrong. LP – Eric Reynolds. Multiple Hits – (P) Myron Hereford, Larry Beckley. (S) Jeff Dillard 3, Chi Wesson, David Fleming. 2B – (P) Armstrong, Eric Pitts. (S) Wesson. 3B – (P) Hereford. HR – (P) Hereford. (S) Wesson. Records: Pontotoc 21-5. Saltillo 16-9.