By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
NEW ALBANY – Among the the playoff contenders in Division 2-4A, playing at home seems to be the key.
Home was certainly sweet Thursday night for the New Albany Bulldogs, who handed the Ripley Tigers their first division loss, a 6-5 decision.
“Sure, among the top three teams in the division, the home team has won every time,” New Albany coach John Walker said. “Our track plays fast, and we like that.”
New Albany (13-10, 6-2) should like the fact that it is within a game of first place in 2-4A, with a pair of games left against Rosa Fort next week.
With the scored tied at 5-5 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Bulldogs got an infield hit from Aaron Catt and a single from Jake McDonald to put runners at first and third with one out. Cleanup hitter Grant Hogue then delivered a finely placed bunt that scored Catt with the go-ahead run.
New Albany then followed that in the top of the seventh with nice defensive plays by Catt in the infield and Hogue in the outfield on hard-hit balls to help close out Ripley (14-8, 5-1).
“The errors and the runners left on base were key,” Ripley head coach Joel Gafford said. “It doesn’t get any easier for us, but that’s the fun part about it.”
Ripley broke in front in the top of the first on run-scoring ground outs 2-0. New Albany responded with solo runs in the first three frames, including a double steal, an RBI hit by Hogue, and a bases loaded walk.
The fifth and sixth innings had its share of plays, beginning in the fifth with Ripley scoring a run on a Tucker Childers sacrifice fly. New Albany bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the frame, but on four errors by the Tigers.
And Ripley knotted the contest in the sixth as two bunts helped set up a run-scoring fielder’s choice and ground out.
“We were able to execute that safety squeeze, and we had talked about that before the game,” Walker said. “We’ve done what we can do, now we need a split to have a chance at first place.”
Within the division, there is still one remaining matchup that will impact league play. Ripley will play Lafayette (16-9, 5-1) Monday and Tuesday.