By Jonathan Wise
ECRU – Hits were hard to come by for both Nettleton and North Pontotoc on Friday night. In the end, however, it was was not a stroke of the bat that proved the difference.
Nettleton’s Ben Rogers raced home on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh, lifting the Tigers to a 2-1 win and 1-0 lead in the best of three 3A state quarterfinal matchup.
It was a classic pitcher’s duel, with Nettleton junior lefty Hayden Guin and standout Viking senior Trey Jolly both going the distance and allowing a combined seven hits. Jolly fanned nine and Guin six.
“Hayden has had good times and bad times this year, but he did a good job of continuing to compete tonight,” said Nettleton coach Will Hawkins.
“Their pitcher did a good job, and we didn’t hit the ball very good at all. That’s asking a lot of him (Guin) against a team the caliber of North Pontotoc.”
The Tigers (25-8) got on the board in the top of the third when leadoff hitter Levert Jernigan came across on a sacrifice fly to center from Tanner Crawley. Their was no score nor even a Viking baserunner until the bottom of sixth, when North’s Miciah Heard doubled off the left field wall with one out. Jolly then came through with a well-placed single between third and short to tie the game for the Vikings (25-5).
“They came out and got that run in the sixth, and instead of laying down and saying ‘well, we got close,’ our guys came out and really competed,” Hawkins said.
North’s Josh Tutor drew a walk with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Guin induced a pair of fly balls to end it.
“He (Guin) mixed it up well and we hit some balls hard right at them,” said North coach Chad Anthony. “We had a few mistakes here and there, and to their credit they took advantage of them. All you can do is come back tomorrow and be ready to play.”