By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent
Hokes Bluff High baseball coach Mike Robertson put it bluntly after Monday’s 8-5 loss to Cleburne County in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“We didn’t make the plays when we had to. We battled them, but it’s tough to overcome that many errors. It was an unusual night for us to make that many.”
Unofficially, the Eagles, who finished their season at 16-9, committed eight errors. Four of Cleburne County’s runs were unearned.
The Tigers opened the game by scoring two first-inning runs but Hokes Bluff scored three in the bottom of the first. Chase Beggs led off with a triple off the centerfield wall and was singled home by Thomas Haney. The Eagles then loaded the bases with an Austin Willbanks’ single and a Cleburne County error. Another two runs were scored when Dustin Herman was hit by a pitch and on a passed ball.
But the Tigers tied it up in the top of the second.
In the fourth, Cleburne County took a 7-3 lead, only to see the Eagles score two runs in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Jace Stewart singled, then Beggs walked. Haney was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then two scored on a Tigers error.
Cleburne County scored the final run in the seventh.
Kaden Moore hurled a complete game for the Eagles.
In Saturday’s opening series, Hokes Bluff won the first game, 2-1, in nine innings. The Tigers took the nightcap, 13-5.
In the opener, the Eagles led, 1-0, on the strength of Austin Williams’ solo home run in the fourth-inning. That lead held until the top of the seventh when the Tigers tied it up.
Hokes Bluff then won it in the bottom of the inning on a solo homer by Fisher Simmons.
“I was just looking to get on a pitch,” Simmons said. “He threw me a low, inside fastball, and that’s my pitch.”
Beggs earned a complete-game victory.
The nightcap was a battle until Cleburne County scored six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Eagles notched a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Beggs led off the game with a home run. Willbanks then doubled and scored on a John Watson single.
The Tigers went ahead 4-2 in the second inning, but Hokes Bluff tied it at 4-all in the third.
Beggs drew a base-on-balls and scored on a Willbanks home run.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers retook the lead at 6-4, where it stayed until the fifth. The Tigers scored one more in the sixth.
“We scored early and knocked the ball around some,” Robertson said. “But when it came down to the big inning, they hit the ball and we didn’t. Plain and simple.”