Photo: Hokes Bluff’s Hunter Burke slides into third base as Southside’s Landon Brasher applies the tag during the Eagles’ 9-8 victory in high school baseball last Saturday (March 14) at SHS. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Hokes Bluff held off a late Southside rally to knock off the Panthers, 9-8, in eight innings on Saturday (March 14) at Danny League Field in Southside.
A seven-run second inning propelled the Eagles (6-4) to a comfortable lead for most of the game, but the Panthers (9-7) slowly chipped away and forced extra innings after tying the game on a two-RBI triple from Cody Roberts in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In extra innings, Hokes Bluff’s Hunter Burke launched a double to rightfield to score Clay Rainey, which held up as the game-winning run. Koby Addison earned the win after pitching the final three innings in his first appearance on the mound since his freshman year. Addison underwent Tommy John surgery that kept him off the mound for over two years.
“It felt awesome,” Addison said. “It was my first time back on the mound since freshman year. After two surgeries, I was just itching to get back out there.”
Hokes Bluff coach Mike Robertson said he was glad to see Addison have success on the mound.
“We wanted to play today and get everybody a chance to pitch,” Robertson said. “It’s good to see Koby get emotional there. He’s had everything operated on except his fingers on his right arm. So it’s good to see him come back and pitch and have some success.”
Hokes Bluff’s big second inning mostly came as a result of several unforced errors from the Panthers. Payton Lemons had a hit and two RBI and Burke had two RBI on the day. Drake Rainey finished with three hits and one RBI, while Clay Rainey recorded two hits and scored two runs. Addison, Ashton Gulledge and Caleb McGinnis – all seniors – scored one run.
Southside scored two runs in the bottom of the third to cut the lead to 8-3 and added three more in the fifth to trim the margin to 8-6. Drew McBurnett knocked home two runs during that stretch, while Aulden Battles and Toren Snow each had one RBI. Brock Ford added two hits for the Panthers.
“We gave them seven runs (in the second inning),” said Southside coach Shane Chappell. “All seven were either walks, hit by pitch or errors. So we pretty much gave them seven runs. We could’ve very easily folded and give them the rest of the game, but we didn’t. We buckled down defensively. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Robertson and Chappell both acknowledged the possibility that Saturday was potentially the last time either team would take the field this season due to COVID-19. While both are hopeful the season will commence sometime in April, each coach is aware that the situation is not under their control.
“The old guys know it is what it is,” Robertson said. “I coach that way. I’m a realist. I’ll probably tell them to get a ball at home and get out and throw some. From there, I guess we’ll sit around and wait. I would hate to be a senior. I pray and hope that it works out.”
“The life lesson – and we’ve said it over and over – is the old cliché ‘play it like it’s going to be your last one,’” said Chappell. “Don’t take anything for granted. Because it can be taken away. You’re not guaranteed tomorrow. You’re not guaranteed the next week.
“I’m going to tell them in the locker room that this could be the last day, but I’ve got positive belief that it won’t. If it is, it is. If it’s not, we’re going to have a plan in place for when we come back for what we have to do to give ourselves ready.”
Addison, one of five seniors on Hokes Bluff’s team along with Gulledge, McGinnis, Clay Rainey and Charlie Westmoreland, said he hopes he and his teammates have a chance to finish the season, but they knew before the game that it could potentially be their last time on the field together.
“I definitely don’t want them to keep us playing the rest of the season out,” Addison said. “It’s my senior season, and I want to play every game I can. But it’s ultimately their decision, and I’m hoping everything to die down so we can go back to normal. We mentioned in the huddle that it could be our last game, so go out there and play as hard as you can.”