By Jacob Cole/Florence Times-Daily
Photo: Hokes Bluff’s Koby Addison catches a throw just after Brooks’ Charlie Crowley reaches first base during the teams’ 7-1, 5-4 split in the Class 4A state baseball semifinals on Wednesday (May 8) in Killen. (Matt McKean/Florence Times-Daily)
After a dominant game one win for Brooks, a disastrous bottom of the seventh inning forced a game three in the Class 4A state baseball semifinal series between the Lions and top-ranked Hokes Bluff.
After winning the first game 7-1 behind dominant pitching, Brooks appeared well on its way to advancing to the state championship series with a 4-0 lead in the second game of a doubleheader om Wednesday May 8 in Killen.
But the Eagles (26-4) used a five-run seventh inning to force a game three and maintain the opportunity to advance to the state championship series for the second straight year.
The deciding third game was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. yesterday (May 9) weather permitting. The result was too late for this edition.
If Hokes Bluff won game 3, the Eagles would play the winner of the Mobile Christian/Sipsey Valley series this Wednesday, May 15, in game 1 of a best-of-three series at 7 p.m. at Patterson Field in Montgomery.
Game 2 and a deciding if-necessary third game is set to begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Riverwalk Stadium.
The second game was going as planned for the Lions.
A RBI groundout from Carson Villalta started the scoring for Brooks (24-8), and Trey Patterson’s RBI groundout and Carson Daniel’s RBI single gave Brooks a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. Daniel hit a solo shot to take the 4-0 lead going into the last inning of play.
Villalta struck out 11 batters over six-plus innings for Brooks but left the game after opening the seventh with a walk.
The last inning did not go as planned for the Lions. Lake Spurgeon got two outs sandwiched around a walk, but then Hokes Bluff’s Drake Rainey hit a two-run RBI single.
Hunter Burke then tied the game with a two-run base hit. Pinch-running for Burke, Jackson Fielding moved up on his single to second and then to third base on a wild pitch.
Fielding then got caught between third and home plate, but the catcher’s throw hit the runner. Fielding raced home and beat the throw from the Brooks third baseman for the winning run.
“(Hokes Bluff’s late rally) happened so quick,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Mike Robertson. “We were down to our last strike a couple of times and I think we had three two-out hits. Give our kids credit for coming off the deck and winning a game like that.
“Both our kids pitched well (Dylan Teague in Game 1 and Payton Lemons in Game 2), but [Brooks’]pitchers shut us down in both games and we had way too many strikeouts. We’ve got to hit the ball better [in game 3] if we’re going to win.”
Thorne Tapp pitched Brooks to a game one win, holding Hokes Bluff to a run on three hits while striking out two batters over seven innings.
Hokes Bluff scored one run in the first inning on Houston Edwards’ RBI single, but Brooks took control after that.
Hayden Walton drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, and a sacrifice fly from Peyton Plants put Brooks ahead.
The Lions added another run on a double play to go up 3-1.
Brooks put up four runs in the fourth inning to expand its lead. A bases-loaded walk scored one run and Villalta drove in two runs on a single. That was followed by Plants’ RBI single for a 7-1 lead.
“We’re going to have to rebound from that,” said Brooks head coach Jacob Fowler. “That’s a tough one to lose, and we felt like we won two or three times. I told them that game was lost in the third or fourth inning. We kind of let our guard down and lost our energy.”
Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article