By Jay Tidwell
Special to the Journal
SPRINGVILLE – Coach Bryan Buckner might have some criticism for Ben Adams after his three errors at third base Friday night.
But he won't be able to find fault with Adams' work at the plate.
Two clutch hits by the South Pontotoc junior third baseman, coupled with a complete game on the mound by Devin Garner, boosted South Pontotoc to a Division 2-3A win over Houston 5-4.
The win was important for South Pontotoc, now 11-6 and 2-3 in 2-3A, and opens a set of four varsity games to be played at home this weekend. Houston, coming off a key 9-3 division win over Caledonia this past Tuesday, falls to 6-10 and 2-3, and has two more division games on the road coming up this week.
South Pontotoc left a man on base in each of its six innings at the plate, but managed to advance the runners when it counted most.
The Cougars jumped in front 3-0 in the bottom of the first, and never relinquished the lead. Adams doubled – his first of two – to the fence in right center, scoring Grant Reynolds and Dustin Jones. Sam Cruse followed with a single over third base, scoring Adams.
In bottom of the fifth, Cory Finn stroked a one-out double to right-center, and scored on a double to right by Adams, bumping South Pontotoc to 5-2.
Garner, a senior and now 2-2 on the season, pitched his way out of several jams and whiffed batters in every inning.
In top of the sixth, with runners at first and second, Garner struck out Landon Brister to end the inning, preserving the Cougars' 5-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Houston never got the ball out of the infield, but managed to cut the score to 5-4. And Garner hung tough.
Adams bobbled a shot by Chase Franks that loaded the bases. Chris Upshaw flied out to shallow center and the runners were unable to advance. Garner beaned Ricky Ware on the next pitch, plating Latham Brister. Garner next hit Jason Moore with a pitch, scoring Ty Stroup. But Garner was unfazed by the dilemma.
“I think I kept them off-balance,” Garner said, who struck out nine. “I tried to mix it up as much as possible, such as throwing my curve ball with full-count to the last batter.”
The last pitch was a called third strike to Dustin Smith, who took Garner to full count and struck out in three of his four trips to the plate.
Even under pressure late in the game, Buckner said he didn't seriously consider relieving Garner.
“He's our ace,” Buckner said. “I knew he could fight through.”
Latham Brister (3-3) took the loss for Houston. Ware entered the game with one out in the bottom of the second, and gave up two runs while fanning seven.
(South Pontotoc) “kept us off balance,” said Houston coach John Ellison, in his third season at the helm. “Their pitcher showed a lot of guts when the game was on the line.”
“I believe sometimes it happens, and sometimes it don't,” Ellison said. “Tonight, it just didn't happen.”