ECRU – Brandon Bailey ended his hitting slump Friday night, much to the delight of everybody wearing North Pontotoc blue and orange.
The senior third baseman and No. 9 hitter belted a two-run, two-out home run in the ninth to give the Vikings a 3-1 extra-inning victory over Center Hill in the first game of their MHSAA Class 4A state quarterfinals best-of-three series.
Game 2 between the Vikings (24-3) and Mustangs (18-13) is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Center Hill.
“There’s no better way to come out of a slump,” a smiling Bailey said. “I’d gone hitless in three games.”
Bailey struck out in three previous at-bats against Center Hill’s 6-foot-5 left-hander Drew Milligan, who recorded 15 strikeouts and scattered eight hits.
“I was looking for a fastball and he left it inside, waist high. When I hit it, I knew it was gone,” said Bailey, who hit a 2-2 offering from Milligan. “There ain’t no better feeling.”
North Pontotoc coach Chad Anthony was impressed with Bailey’s slump-breaking blast – his first home run this season – over the left-center field fence.
“That was a good swing,” Anthony said. “He nailed it.”
The Vikings also got another solid pitching performance from their ace, left-hander Kyle Robbins. Pitching in his second game this week, he scattered four hits and recorded 15 strikeouts.
Robbins, who pitched seven innings Monday in a playoff win against Lafayette, wanted the ball Friday, not today.
“They gave me the option (pitch Friday or Saturday) and I wanted to go out there and get it done, win that first game,” he said. “It’s critical to win the first game. Everybody was looking to me.”
The Mustangs broke open a scoreless game in the fourth when Zach Russell doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single to right by Cody Gangwish for a 1-0 lead.
North Pontotoc tied the score at 1-1 in the sixth when Caleb Mills singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Robbins.
“Give our guys credit,” Anthony said. “They scratched back to tie it. They kept battling and fighting.”
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal