By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
HATLEY – With a playoff spot on the line, it was a battle to the end between baseball rivals Hatley and Hamilton on Friday night.
After losing on a walkoff sacrifice fly in extras on Tuesday, Hatley (16-8, 6-4) returned the favor, rallying to a 4-3 win in the seventh to take the final playoff spot for Division 1-2A.
“I’m blown away. We’ve struggled at the plate all year, but our kids just kept fighting and never gave up,” Hatley coach John Harris said. “Finally one time the ball bounced our way this year.”
Hamilton (8-11, 5-5) struck first in the top of the third with Austin Lewis hitting a two-out base hit and scoring when Alan Baty reached on a Hatley error.
The Lions added runs in the sixth and seventh for a 3-0 lead by way of the long ball as Caleb Garvin and Tanner Dement each launched solo homers off Hatley reliever Josh Carlisle.
Carlisle started off the Hatley rally, leading off the inning with a double to right. Tyler Bowling scored him with a double of his own, followed by a bunt single from Garrett Gray, who had three of the Tigers’ six hits.
Brock Kidd added an RBI single, and the Tigers tied the game up when Russ Johnson reached on an infield error.
The winning run came home when starting pitcher Austin Lewis tried to pick off Hunter Schrock at first, but his throw sailed away from the first baseman.
Carlisle earned the win in relief of Schrock, who allowed one run on three hits in his five innings.
The loss leaves Hamilton out of the playoffs for the first time in coach Lewis Earnest’s 18-year coaching career.
“They battled back, and we just weren’t able to stop it. We had a chance at the end and didn’t make the play,” Earnest said.
Hatley matches up with Bruce, who eliminated the Tigers in the North finals last season on their way to the Class 2A title.