By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Wiley Maddox bats ninth in the order for a reason.
“I haven’t been doing that good,” said Bruce’s senior first baseman. “I’m probably batting .215, .220.”
But in Thursday’s MHSAA Class 2A state championship baseball series opener, Maddox belted two doubles and knocked in the eventual game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Trojans to a 3-2 victory against defending state champion Taylorsville at Smith-Wills Stadium.
Maddox’s second double, a two-out, opposite-field shot to the rightfield corner, scored pinch runner Rashad Turner from first base.
“I knew it was coming down to me,” Maddox said. “This is the stuff you dream about.”
Bruce (22-9) and Taylorsville (26-6) are scheduled to play Game 2 of the best-of-three series at 1 p.m. Saturday. A third game, if needed, would be played Monday at a time to be determined.
A Taylorsville throwing error by second baseman Bryce Ainsworth allowed the Trojans’ No. 8 batter, Jake Yarbrough, to reach base.
Bruce coach Josh Dowdy replaced Yarbrough with Turner, the team’s fastest runner, in hopes that Maddox could come through with another extra-base hit. He doubled to left field in the fifth inning.
“Maddox has come up with big hits,” Dowdy said. “Their right fielder got to the ball quick, but I had already made up my mind that I was sending (Turner) home.”
Tartars pitcher Sam Wiley (8-1), who suffered his first loss of the season, singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but was stranded after a running catch in right field by Codie McMahan and a ground out.
“(Wiley) pitched well enough to win,” Taylorsville coach Dusty Hillman said. “Unfortunately, we made a couple of tough defensive plays.”
Wiley struck out 10 Trojans and scattered seven hits. Bruce scored two runs in the fourth on a fielder’s choice ground ball and a throwing error.
Bruce pitcher Jay King wasn’t as dominating, striking out one and giving up six hits. His strategy was to throw strikes and let his defense do the work.
“I knew I had to throw strikes,” he said. “These are two even teams. It came down to the wire. We just got the big hit today.”
Taylorsville scored in the third on bases-loaded hit batter and in the fifth on an RBI single by Josh Pankratz.