(Chase Porch reels and rocks – The Red Sox pitcher picks up the win in relief vs. Water Valley on Thursday.)
By TIM TUTOR
The 22-10, 9-3 Pontotoc Red Sox, fresh from a successful campaign in Morristown, Tennessee, finished their regular season march to the Mississippi American Legion State Tournament with wins over division foe West Point (7-1, 2-1) and Water Valley (5-4,15-5) on Tuesday and Thursday of last week.
It was hard for the Sox not to look ahead to the State Tournament at Tupelo starting Friday, July 30. So, Coach Browning expected a little let down Thursday night after his Red Sox had finished the regular season as district champions on Tuesday.
But, after falling behind 4-2 in the top of the 5th against a hungry Water Valley team, Browning called for a little heart-to-heart on the third base line.
“It was my job to get them up at the first of the game and I didn’t do that,” replied Browning.
“We were coming off of two big victories against West Point and we just were not ready to play.”
The talk with the team sparked a comeback by the Red Sox in the bottom of the sixth when the batters started waiting for their pitch.
After lead off hitter Charlie Edwards was retired on a grounder to third, the Water Valley starter walked first baseman Tyler Hodge, center fielder Jacob Kidd, and third baseman Chase Porch to load the bases for pinch-hitter Ben Russell.
Russell got under a pitch and sent a ball towering over the infield. The Water Valley first baseman tracked it over into foul territory and made the catch in front of the dugout.
With two outs it was up to second baseman Tim Bruss if the Sox were going to take advantage of the situation.
Bruss did just that.
A line shot to the gap in left center bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double that plated Hodge and Kidd. Porch had to hold up at third.
Designated hitter Nick Brown then struck out, but Pontotoc had tied the game at 4-4.
The comeback completed
Reliever Chase Porch held Water Valley scoreless in the top of the 7th, and short stop Caleb Kidd led off the bottom half with a single up the middle.
Right fielder James Sims was unsuccessful trying the bunt the runner over and struck out. Kidd was moving on the pitch though and wound up on second.
Kidd advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Water Valley decided to intentionally walk the batter, Edwards.
Then, on the first pitch to Hodge, Edwards stole second and another free pass was given to Hodge to load the bases, still with just one out.
Jacob Kidd’s high hopping, slow roller to second was fielded and the play was to the plate. But, Caleb Kidd got a good jump on the pitch and the throw wasn’t close. The Red Sox had made it 3 in a row on the week with a 5-4 win.
“We’re lucky we won, because that bunch from Water Valley wanted to win worse than we did tonight,” said Coach Browning.
“We messed around and it came down to the last two innings. We liked to have given the game away.”
In the top of the third after back-to-back Water Valley hits the Pontotoc boys, with runners on first and second, turned a beautiful triple play.
Bullock fielded a sharply hit grounder and made the force at third. Third baseman Chase Porch then threw across the diamond to retire the batter at first. The runner from first had rounded second and thought he could make it to third, but first baseman Tyler Hodge gunned him down on a close play that concluded what may have been the first triple play in Pontotoc American Legion history.
“You don’t see many triple plays,” said Coach Browning.
“I can’t remember another one right now. I’m sure that some time in my 28 years with this team, we may have turned one, but that’s the first one I remember.”
Pitching strategy planned
Coach Browning lifted starter Cody Bullock for Chase Porch in the top of the 5th. Bullock left the game with a 2-1 lead giving up only 4 hits.
“We had planned on throwing each one of them about 3 or 4 innings.” Four of Browning’s pitchers had not seen any action since the Tennessee trip and thinking ahead to the State Tournament this Friday, Browning wanted to give them all some work in this double hitter.
“We had to make sure we got some pitching,” added the coach after the first game.
“We’ll also throw two guys in the next game.”
The State Tourney in Tupelo
“I hope that we’ll have a good crowd to come watch us play,” suggested Browning.
“Hopefully, we will play and perform like we are capable of playing.
“It’s going to be a good tournament. It will come down to whoever gets hot, whoever gets pitching, and whoever gets a little bit of luck.”