By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
On Saturday (Apr. 15), Southside defeated Hokes Bluff, 7-4, to win the Etowah County baseball tournament. Panther coach Blake Bone is in his 10th season and his team has won eight of those tournaments, with Hokes Bluff beating Southside in Bone’s first year. Mother Nature took the other one, in the form of a rainout.
“We were fortunate to win this one,” Bone said. “We had some timely hitting and our pitchers did a great job.”
On top of the great job list is Sam Raines. In the semifinal game – a 2-0 win over Sardis – Raines pitched a complete game shutout. He then earned a one-out save in the championship game.
“He’s my best pitcher, and I hated bringing him in like that (in the save situation),” Bone said. “But he threw strikes and got the out.”
The Eagles got the tying run to the plate with John Watson, which prompted Bone to bring in Raines.
Trailing 7-1 entering the seventh inning, Hokes Bluff got two of its first three batters on base, then watched as Chase Beggs dropped a homer over the left-center field fence.
Two more runners reached base before Watson stepped into the batter’s box.
“I was happy to see us keep battling,” Eagle coach Mike Robertson said. “We’ve had a knack for that this year, and I hope it continues (into the playoffs).”
Southside built its lead in increments, scoring one in the second, then two more in the fifth, with Jacob Coker hitting a two-run single.
In the sixth, Southside scored four more. Logan Brooks smacked a two-run double and Grayson Daugherty also hit a two-run double.
“We were fortunate to add some runs on for insurance,” Bone said. “In the end, we definitely needed those (sixth-inning) runs.”
Hokes Bluff got on the board in the sixth on a wild pitch.
“If we hadn’t let them add on late, we would’ve had a real shot at the win,” Robertson said. “It was a pitcher’s duel early, but we blinked first.”
Indeed. Both pitchers – Southside’s Daugherty and Hokes Bluff’s Beggs – struck out the side in the first and both were effective until Southside’s fifth.