HATLEY EXTENDS SERIES WITH COMEBACK WIN
By D.E. Wheeler
SPRINGVILLE The South Pontotoc Cougars were three outs away from doing the expected Saturday in the first round of the Class 2A baseball playoffs, sweeping a doubleheader from the Hatley Tigers.
But by the time the Cougars got that third out, the Tigers had scored seven runs in the top of the seventh inning in Game 2 and went on to claim a 9-7 win. With South Pontotoc winning Game 1 9-3, Hatley’s come-from-behind effort forces a deciding third game Tuesday at Hatley, with a tentative starting time of 6 p.m.
“This was our first year in it (the playoffs), and I was just proud to see us come back against a quality team like South Pontotoc,” Hatley coach Michael Farrar said. “There were times we could have quit today, but hitting is contagious.”
Trailing 5-2 going into the top of the seventh inning in Game 2, Hatley (15-10) caught the hitting bug against South Pontotoc starter Chance Austin. A leadoff walk to No. 7 hitter Brad Benton and a slicing single by Josh Roye got Hatley’s comeback hopes going.
Then Jeremy Taylor lined a single off Austin’s leg, scoring Benton, and the comeback was on. The first six Hatley batters reached base in the inning, capped by Patrick Schoolar’s bases loaded double off reliever Chad Holcomb to make the score 7-5.
The first out was a Chris Walters sacrifice fly that scored a run to make it 8-5 and Roye’s second single in the inning finished scoring for Hatley. The rally made a winner out of starter Clint Hoots
“With their 7, 8 and 9 batters up to start the inning, you walk the leadoff man, then make a couple of mental mistakes, then they get hot,” South Pontotoc coach Steve Lyles said. “We played as bad as we could possibly play for two games, and we’re fortunate to be going to Hatley.”
Daniel Craig’s two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning only pulled South Pontotoc within two runs. The Cougars got their 5-2 advantage with a three-run first inning and a two-run fifth inning.
Like Hatley in the second game, South Pontotoc (24-8) had a big late inning that propelled the Cougars to the Game 1 win. Only leading 3-2 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, South Pontotoc erupted for six runs in its last at-bat.
Jason Caldwell led off the inning with his second home run of the game, and that was followed three batters later by a two-run home run by pinch hitter Jake Arnold. Sonny Holcomb also had a two-run double in the inning.
Holcomb (9-1) also went the distance on the mound for the Cougars, scattering six hits and striking out 10. Walters was the Game 1 starter and loser for Hatley.
The likely starters for Game 3 of the series is Sonny Holcomb for South Pontotoc and Hoots for Hatley.
South Pontotoc 9, Hatley 3
Hatley 002 000 1 3 6 3
South Pontotoc 021 006 x 9 13 3
WP Sonny Holcomb. LP Chris Walters. Multiple Hits (SP) Grant Stegall 3, Holcomb 2, Jason Caldwell 2, John Fleming 2; (H) Josh Roye 2. 2B (SP) Stegall, Holcomb, Fleming; (H) Roye. HR (SP) Caldwell 2, Shane Davis.
Notes: Hatley had only three hits through the first six innings off Holcomb, who struck out 10 over seven innings. Walters allowed only six hits through his first six innings for Hatley.
Hatley 9, South Pontotoc 7
Hatley 002 000 7 9 8 4
South Pontotoc 300 020 2 7 7 4
WP Clint Hoots. LP Chance Austin. Multiple Hits (H) Jeremy Duke 2, Josh Roye 2; (SP) Grant Stegall 2, Chad Washington 2. 2B (H) Duke, Patrick Schoolar; (SP) Stegall. HR (SP) Daniel Craig. Records: Hatley 15-10, South Pontotoc 24-8.
Notes: This first round Class 2A series is tied 1-1, with game three set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Hatley. In the top of the seventh, Hatley’s first six, and eight of the first nine batters reach base. Hoots pitched a complete game for Hatley, striking out five, walking two, and scattering seven hits.