Hawks salvage split, set up deciding game
By DOUG GORMAN
If The Heritage School played the first game of Saturday’s playoff baseball doubleheader like the second, the Hawks might be able to enjoy the rest of the weekend with the knowledge they had advanced to the second round of the GISA baseball tournament.
Now, if they hope to keep their season going, they have some work to do after splitting the first two games with Gatewood in the best-of-three series Saturday afternoon on a hot and humid afternoon.
Now the two teams will beat Monday at 4:30 p.m. to decide who gets to move on.
“That is a good team were are playing,” said Heritage coach Lynn Huffstickler. “All the teams in their region are very competitive and it showed.”
The Hawks picked up a solid performance out of pitcher Mack Wilkins in the nightcap en route to continuing the series.
Wilkins went the distance and pitched around some careless defense by his teammates.
“We didn’t always help him, but I thought he went out there and did a very good job,” Huffstickler said.
The Hawks had their chances to break the Game 2 open early, but left seven men stranded through the first three innings.
After a Candler Rich double to lead off the top of the first, Heritage ended the inning with the bases loaded.
They finally broke through with two runs in the third when Tyler Nix walked and Luke Crook singled. Both runners later scored for a 2-0 lead.
Heritage added three runs in the top of the fourth Candler Rich and Sam Pulsipher singled and scored on Nix’s RBI. Patrick McKee also added a run when he reached on error and later scored on a wild pitch.
Despite the victory in game two, the Hawks allowed the Gators to get back in the contest with some poor defense that cut the lead to 5-3. Wilkins put out the fire with two straight strikeouts.
Wilkins turned in his best inning in the sixth, setting the side down in order. The Gators nearly tied the game in the bottom of the seventh when Cal Taylor reached on single and soured when Tyler Moore reached on an error later in the inning.
Gatewood took control of the first game, scoring at least one run in ever inning but the second.
They also held off a couple of Hawks’ rally attempts that including a Luke Crook three-run homer with two outs in the seventh to cut the score to the final margin.
The Gators built an 8-2 lead by the fourth and did plenty of damage against three Heritage pitchers.
Nix started the game and was relieved by Brian McKinney in the fourth, Luke Smith saw time from the mound, pitching the rest of the way after the fifth.
The Hawks had chances early in the game but a couple of baserunning errors hurt chances of a serious comeback.
Two Heritage players were thrown out in the third on a pickoff and a stolen base attempt. Then in the sixth, the Gators doubled off a Hawks runner on a flyout to right.
The Gators set the tone for the contest in the first inning when Matthew Kennedy led off the game with a double.
A wild pitch moved him to third and he scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly.
The Gators added one more run in the inning for a 2-0 lead.
Heritage tied the game in the second when Lynch and Pulsipher connected on RBI base hit, but that was a close as they could get.
From there, the Gators were in total control. They added two more runs in the second, taken advantage off Austin Burner’s squeeze play ad Trey Moore’s RBI single.
Gatewood opened the offensive floodgates in the third, back-to-back doubles from Kennedy and Cal Taylor en route to a three-run inning and 7-2 lead.
The Gators also took advantage of a fielding error by Heritage in the fifth to add their eight run of the game.
Heritage put together a small rally in the fifth when Rich singled and McKee reached on a walk. Rich and Crook had RBIs in the fifth inning.
Crook led the Hawks offensive production in the two games, finishing with four hits and scoring three runs. Kennedy led the Gators attack with three hits.