By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Saltillo Tigers senior Chase Hill was perhaps more proud of his pitching performance Saturday – he threw his first complete game of the season.
But his Tigers teammates probably appreciated his seventh inning at-bat, where the senior knocked in the winning run with a base hit to help defeat the Neshoba Central Rockets 4-3.
The victory in Game 3 helped the Tigers earn a series win in the Class 5A play-in round of the playoffs, and Saltillo will face Hernando next in the first round.
“I haven’t pitched seven innings all year, and I was glad Coach Bolen had confidence in me,” Hill said. “All I was thinking that last at-bat was that a hit scores a run, and I did my best.”
After leading for most of the contest, Saltillo (17-12) found itself tied 3-3 after the top of the seventh inning when an Austin Harrison single scored two runs for Neshoba.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kyle Young and Cosby Repult walked off Neshoba reliever Tanner Salter, setting up Hill’s at bat with one out. The senior ripped a Salter offering to the base of the center field wall, scoring Young for the win.
“Would you believe he hadn’t had a hit in the series going into this game,” Saltillo head coach Johnny Bolen said. “Hey, he stepped up, did the job on the mound, and had all the RBIs this game.”
Hill basically set the tone for Game 3 in the bottom of the first inning, yanking a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run home run to give the Tigers the lead. Hill also hit a solo homer in the fifth frame.
Meanwhile on the mound, Hill (3-1) was scattering seven hits over his seven innings of work.
Neshoba finally cracked the scoreboard in the top of the fifth on a hit, walk, and two errors. Then in the top of the seventh, Neshoba led off the frame with a single and a walk, then got its run-scoring hit from Harrison with two outs.
“This was two evenly matched teams, and we just happened to get a couple of hits at the right time,” Bolen said. “Our whole division season was like this, so this shouldn’t be anything new to us.”
Earlier in the day, Neshoba defeated Saltillo 6-4 in Game 2.
Both teams scored four runs in the first inning, with Blake Houston knocking in two with a single. The Rockets later added runs in the second and fifth innings.
Saltillo won the opener 4-2 on Friday night.