13U stars win extra inning thriller
After winning five straight ballgames at the Babe Ruth 13U State Tournament in Cookeville, the Marshall County all-stars needed one more victory versus Manchester Monday night to claim a spot in the title game, and the contest turned out to be an instant classic as Marshall County came from behind to win 10-9 in eight innings.
Heroes abounded for Mike Bailey's squad with Ben Taylor driving in the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the eighth and Jay Howard, who had not pitched the entire tournament, coming in from the bullpen to garner the win on the mound.
"That was unbelievable," said Bailey. "That was one of the best games at this age division I have seen in a long time. It was back and forth, nobody was ready to quit. We would get out ahead and then they would come back and we would have to come back I think three or four times after lead changes."
Bailey added, "Our guys never quit, I am really proud of them for that. It was a learning experience for them because they have never been in a pressure situation like that and time after time, they came through."
Manchester was a little shaky to start, allowing Marshall County to score four runs in the first inning on just one hit.
Marshall County scored on a pair of fielder's choices from Howard and Thomas Hawkins.
Trent Richardson drove home run number three when he was beaned by a pitch with the bases loaded and Hawkins scampered home with the fourth run on a balk by Manchester starter Grant Sadler.
In the bottom of the first, two Marshall fielding errors, compounded by a base on balls and a hit batsman cut the lead in half at 4-2.
Richardson drove home two more runs in the second inning to stretch the Marshall County lead to 6-2, but Manchester came all the way back to tie the contest with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning.
Alan Rob drilled a two-run double in the frame and Zane Slater and Garrett Eldridge also had RBI base knocks for Manchester.
Marshall County starting pitcher Will Johnson fell to the turf after the inning was over and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, delaying the game for over 30 minutes.
Johnson would return later that evening and it was revealed that he had torn a rib cartilage that put him in excruciating pain.
Johnson is expected to make a full recovery.
Sadler set down Marshall County 1-2-3 in the third and in the home half of the inning, Manchester scored a pair of runs on a two-run double by Sadler to take an 8-6 lead.
There was no scoring in the fourth inning, but in the top of the fifth, Marshall County got an RBI double by Hawkins and a sacrifice fly RBI from Jonathan Lykins to knot the contest at 8.
Marshall County iron man Brayden Gentry, who had come to the mound for Johnson in the second, shut down Manchester in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Howard led off with a walk and stole second before Gentry singled to right, putting runners on the corners.
Sadler retired the next two batters, but Bailey came up with a clutch two-out single to right to score Howard and give Marshall County a 9-8 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Manchester leaded the sacks with one out, but the inning ended on a weird 2-3-1-2 double play as Gentry struck Alontae Taylor swinging, but the ball got behind Marshall County catcher Jacob Jones, who threw to Bailey at first to get Taylor.
Bailey threw to Gentry, who nailed the Manchester runner at home on a bang-bang play, trying to score from third to end the inning.
Sadler got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the seventh.
Rob doubled home Noah Anderson with one out in the bottom of the seventh before Bailey brought Howard to the mound.
After a base on balls, Howard mowed down the next two batters on strikeouts, sending the contest to extra innings.
Richardson led off the eighth with a double to the gap in left/center, but Anderson, who came to the hill to start the inning, retired the next two Marshall County batters before Taylor drilled the go-ahead base hit to center that scored Richardson.
Howard struck out the first batter in the bottom of the inning and Bailey fielded at grounder at first for the second out.
Taylor struck out swinging on a nasty Howard curveball that went to the backstop and raced safely to first before Anderson followed with a walk to keep Manchester alive.
Howard reared back and struck out the next Manchester batter looking to end the game and send Marshall County to the title game versus the undefeated Franklin Stealth.