By David Wheeler/Special to the Journal
SALTILLO – Saltillo center fielder A. J. Rye left school early Friday because he was sick.
Rye then helped the Hernando baseball team leave Saltillo feeling sick.
The sophomore recovered enough to smack a single through the shortstop hole in the bottom of the eighth inning to help Saltillo edge Hernando 2-1 in Game 2 of this first round series in the Class 5A playoffs.
The series is now tied 1-1, with the deciding Game 3 today at Hernando.
“Their pitcher kept throwing me fastballs, and I knew he wasn’t going to walk me,” Rye said. “He threw a fastball, and I took advantage of it.
“I’m looking forward to going to Hernando tomorrow.”
First, Saltillo (18-13) had to get past Hernando starting pitcher Timothy Rowe.
The left-hander had limited Saltillo to four hits through seven innings, before Hunter Harlow delivered a one-out hit in the eighth. After stealing second base, Harlow moved to third on a wild pitch third strike to Kyle Young.
That brought Rye to the plate, who delivered his clutch hit against drawn-in infield of Hernando.
“Sooner or later, we were going to score some runs,” Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen said. “They have a good pitching staff, give them credit, but we finally got that big hit.”
Keeping Hernando from getting that big hit was Saltillo starter Chase Hill.
The senior had not thrown a complete game during the regular season, but has now thrown 15 innings in two post-season starts.
“Chase did the job on the mound,” Bolen said. “He’s played baseball all his like.
“He’s a senior. We had to go with him, that’s his job.”
Saltillo gave Hill the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, beginning with a leadoff single by Harlow. A bunt and a ground out advanced him to third, were he scored on an infield error.
Hernando did crack the scoreboard in the top of the sixth.
Rowe led off with a single, with a pinch runner advancing to third on an error. With one out, Scott Pala got down an effective squeeze bunt to score the run and knot the score.
Saltillo then threatened in the seventh, getting runners to second and first with one out, but hit into a double play. Hernando had a leadoff hit in the eighth, but Saltillo turned a double play as well.