AMORY – For a brief moment, it looked like Amory had pulled it out.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Will Cox hit a shot to center field. Unfortunately for Cox and the Panthers, Mooreville center fielder Gary Johnson was right there to catch it and preserve a 4-3 victory for the Troopers in Thursday’s Game 1 of a MHSAA Class 3A second-round series.
“How concerned are you when you’re about to have a heart attack and about to die?” joked Mooreville coach Rex Berryman. “That’s the way I was.”
Berryman’s team will go for the sweep tonight at 6 in Mooreville. Channing Nanney (5-1) will get the nod for the Troopers (19-10) in Game 2.
He will be opposed by Kyle Montet (6-1).
On Thursday, however, it was Montet’s friend getting the best of the Panthers. Ben Kingsley only allowed two hits and three runs, while striking out seven in going the distance to improve to 8-1 on the year.
Although it was the second straight postseason game that Kingsley surrendered only two hits, the senior right-hander was erratic in victory.
The Meridian Community College signee walked five and hit three batters. After getting the first two hitters out in the bottom of the seventh, he gave up back-to-back walks to Stephen Otey and Montet before hitting Wesley Boock to load the bases.
“The pitch selection was excellent but he wasn’t locating on everything,” Berryman said. “But when the pressure was on, he seemed to locate enough to get the job done.”
Amory scored all three of its runs off Kingsley in the bottom of the first. Boock had an RBI double to left to tie the game at 1. Montet, who walked in the previous at-bat, scored from third on a wild pitch, and Chandler Riggs’ groundout to short scored Boock with Amory’s third run.
Ryan Hill had the other hit for Amory.
“We did not come up with the big at-bats during the middle of the game,” said Amory head coach Chad Williams, whose team dropped to 18-10.
The Troopers scored their first run in the top of the first on a double down the left-field line by Kingsley. The Mooreville senior also doubled down the left-field line in the top of the third.
Mooreville added a run in the second when Tyler Autrey doubled to left to score Johnson all the way from first.
Johnson also came up big in the field, robbing Montet of a home run in the bottom of the third and Riggs of extra bases in the very next inning.
Johnson said he leaped above the wall to catch Montet’s fly ball, and that Riggs’ fly ball was just a few feet from the wall.
In the fifth, Mooreville struck Cox for the game’s decisive run, as Taylor Dickerson delivered a two-run single to left center with two outs in the inning. Autrey scored on the play and so did Tyler Moore, who scored his second run of the game.
Cox (5-5) pitched all seven innings for Amory, striking out 10, walking three, hitting a batter and scattering five hits.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal