By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
HATLEY – The long ball served Bruce well in earning its Class 2A North State baseball title on Saturday.
Jay King’s two-run shot in the third and Chase Clark’s grand slam in the fifth were enough to put away a 6-3 Trojans victory over Hatley to complete a 2-1 series win. Bruce will face Taylorsville in the Class 2A baseball state championship series in Jackson on Thursday.
“Last night, we beat ourselves, and usually when you have eight seniors, they come back the next day ready to play,” Bruce coach Josh Dowdy said. “They knew what was on the line. They wanted it as bad as anybody, and they got it. I’m so proud of them right now. It’s unbelievable.”
Hatley (25-5-1) opened up the scoring in the first inning against Trojans starter Reed Gregory. Jake Self led off with a double, and Hatley starting pitcher Russ Johnson followed him up with a single. The Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead with back-to-back sacrifice flies from Hunter Schrock and Sawyer Weaver.
Johnson (11-2), who grabbed the win on Friday, was solid through the first two innings, but the Trojans got to him in the third when Trey Hall singled, and King followed with his two-run shot.
Bruce loaded up the bases in the top of the fourth. Schrock moved to the mound to relieve Johnson, and Clark launched his grand slam over the right field wall.
“If I had to make the decision again of bringing Hunter in, I’d do it again,” Hatley coach John Harris said. “He’s been there for us all year. I’d never not start Russ (Johnson) again either. He earned the chance to get the start.”
Caleb Walters hit a solo shot of his own to bring the score to 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth, but King, who moved to the mound in the sixth, retired four of the next five Hatley batters..
Hatley, who was undefeated until April 10, will lose six seniors, but returns a loaded junior class that includes four starters, including Johnson, the ace of their pitching staff.
“Our guys made it their goal this year to go to state, and they did everything they could to get there nad just fell short,” Harris said. “It’s good our younger guys have been able to experience this, and we’ll get here again.”