By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
MANTACHIE – Even after watching him go 0 for 3 in his first three plate appearances, Mantachie coach Scott Collier knew Cody Chatham would put the bat on the ball.
Collier was right, and with a tie ballgame and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Chatham’s single that fell just in front of the right fielder to provide the winning run for Mantachie in a 4-3 victory over Bruce.
Game two of the best-of-three Class 2A series is slated for today at 1 p.m. in Bruce.
“I knew all along he was going to put the bat on the ball,” Collier said, “These kids just battle. They don’t know the word quit.”
Down 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Zack McCoy got things started for the Mustangs with an opposite field single.
After Shawn Thompson erased McCoy on a fielder’s choice to put two outs on the scoreboard, Bruce starter Reed Gregory was relieved for Jay King.
King (7-3) then walked the next three batters, including walking in Thompson for the tying run, setting up Chatham’s walk-off hit.
“(Chance) Cooley was 3-for-3 against (Gregory) and we didn’t want him to face him a fourth time, so we made the change,” Bruce coach Sid Burt said of the move to King in the seventh, “But Reed was real good.”
After giving up two runs on the first two batters of the game – Barrett Wooten reached on an error and scored on King’s two-run home run – Mantachie starter Collin Minga (8-1) settled down and kept the Mustangs in the game.
The Itawamba Community College signee gave up only one more run the rest of the game on a RBI single by Wooten in the fifth, striking out eight while walking only one.
“He’s clutch under pressure,” Collier said, “I’ll say it again, he’s a bulldog on the mound.”
After stranding runners in scoring position in both the first and third innings, Mantachie (17-5) broke through in the fifth when Cooley’s two-run home run to cut the Trojan lead to 3-2.
Tiny Moore was the only multiple hitter for the Trojans (14-8) with three in the contest.