Prep Baseball: Heritage School able to cool off Wildcats
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Had its game been played in early May — and Wednesday’s bitter wind chill was an immediate reminder that it wasn’t — Heritage School head baseball coach Lynn Huffstickler might have had a little more discontent in his voice following his team’s 15-12 victory over Flint River Academy.
Not that he wasn’t somewhat discouraged, especially after both teams booted the ball around for nearly three hours in a game that had more combined runs (27) than hits (18). The flow had more stops and starts than a typical Sunday at Talladega. The two former Class AA region rivals also made nine errors between them, six by the Hawks.
Only a pre-Daylight Saving Time sundown could manage to halt things after six innings following a final five-run rally by the Wildcats while batting around in the order.
The Hawks nearly ended the game in the bottom of the fifth, leading 15-7 with the bases loaded following consecutive run-scoring walks with two outs only to see Flint River’s David Scott Chester find a way to extend the game.
Nevertheless, four Heritage pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts while keeping Flint River pinned to eight hits, four of which came in its opponent’s final at bat. The Wildcats did the brunt of their damage at opposite ends of the game, scoring four times in the first off just one hit — Caleb Harker’s wind-blown solo homer — before trying to extend it after twice losing leads.
(To view photos from this game, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports.)
The Hawks just as quickly tied the game at 4-4 in their first at-bat then went ahead for good with a nine-run outburst in the fourth, taking the lead for good on Patrick McKee’s two-run double to left field on a full count.
The marathon rally included eight hits by Heritage, which had 10 in all. Catcher Luke Crook led the way with a 3-for-4 effort and 3 RBIs while McKee, Sam Pulsipher and Luke Smith each drove in two runs.
Not that there wasn’t some assortment of pitching involved with Smith looking the sharpest of nine hurlers used by both teams in hopes of finding a zero or two on Heritage’s inning-by-inning scoreboard. Each team only managed to avoid giving up runs twice along the way.
After coming on for starter Mack Wilkins, who allowed his four runs on two hits over two innings, Smith struck out four between the third and fourth while giving up just one run following Jay Adams’ leadoff single in the third. Adams went 2-for-2 and scored four times while also reaching on two of the Hawks’ six errors — three of which came from third base.
“I thought Luke looked real good out there,” Huffstickler said of Smith, who was credited with the win in relief. “We just can’t give teams that many extra baserunners.”
Flint River couldn’t avoid the same problem after taking a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the fourth allowing every Heritage starter to score. With one-out, McKee drove in both the tying and go-ahead runs on a double to left-center and then quickly found himself on the move again after back-to-back hits by Tyler Nix and Luke Crook, scoring on the latter single.
Two batters later, Smith rocketed a line drive through the middle of the infield to score two more runs to make it 9-5, only to see teammate Sam Pulsipher punch his first pitch into right field for another RBI hit. David Bready also added a run-scoring single to close the rally.
The Hawks added two more runs in the fifth while taking advantage of four Flint River walks including a pair with the bases loaded.