Heritage salvages split with Starkville Academy

April 24, 2009

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


The beauty of the game of baseball is you will see something different every day if you watch enough games. 


The Starkville Academy and Heritage Academy baseball teams did their best Thursday night to ensure all the fans at Trip Carson Field doubled their pleasure and saw plenty of things they might never see again. 


At 11:08 p.m., more than six hours after the first pitch of game one, Cole Vaughan retired Jim Beasley on a fielder''s choice to help Heritage Academy earn a 12-10 victory in game two and salvage a split of their doubleheader. 


Starkville Academy rallied to win game one 9-7. 


The victory was key for the Patriots (10-10, 7-6 MPSA AAA North Division 2), who are still trying to secure a playoff spot. 


Heritage Academy will be pitching depleted Saturday when it travels to Magnolia Heights, but coach Steve Hancock was pleased to get out of Thursday night with at least one victory to take the series. 


Heritage Academy beat Starkville Academy on Tuesday night in Starkville. 


"I have never been involved in anything like that," Hancock said. "That is the ugliest split I have ever seen. I don''t know where to start." 


The teams combined to hit 16 batters, make 16 errors, and walk 20. They also rattled out 34 hits, including home runs by Heritage Academy''s Austin Braddock and Starkville Academy''s Colby Moore. 


"There was a lot of crazy things that happened," Starkville Academy coach Justin Brewer said. "I have played high school baseball, three years of college baseball, been to two College World Series, and I have never in all of my life about five things that happened tonight. Coach Hancock said the same thing." 


Brewer wondered why so many unusual things happened to both teams 20 or more games into the season. 


For the Volunteers, who started 10-4 and then lost seven games in a row, Brewer was pleased with his team''s fight. The Volunteers have regrouped and have won three of their past five games, and he said they have played harder as a team than they did in their first 15 games. 


"I can''t say enough about the heart and the fight in these kids, especially in the last five games in a row after losing seven in a row," said Brewer, whose team is 13-14. "The doubleheader should be a testimony to the kids in how hard you should play the game for seven innings and you rest when the third out is made in the seventh inning. In the last four weeks everybody has learned a lot in that we have lost five games in the past month in the seventh inning. They have learned they have to play hard. Tonight, they played hard until the last out." 


Heritage Academy used an eight-run fourth inning to take the lead for good in game two. Arrington Rhett and Vaughan each had two hits, and Vaughan and Tyler White each had two RBIs in the game. 


But Starkville Academy didn''t go away. It scored four runs in the fifth to cut the deficit to 11-10. A second balk call that could have helped the Volunteers tie the game was reversed, which sent the runner back to third. That runner scored on a fielder''s choice, and the team''s 10th run scored on the back end of a 1-4-3 putout by the Patriots. 


Starkville Academy had a chance to win the game in the seventh. With one out, Kyle Henson reached on an error and Pittman hit Moore. The runners moved to third and to second on wild pitches before Ben Thebaud was intentionally walked. 


Hancock then lifted Pittman for Vaughan, who walked five and allowed five hits in the first 4 2/3 innings of game one. Vaughan got Josh Daughtry to line out to Braddock at shortstop. He then got Beasley to ground to Braddock, who flipped the ball to second base to record the final out. 


"We couldn''t throw strikes," Hancock said. "The thing we have been so good at is trying to keep our pitch count down and getting ahead in the count. We just didn''t do it. It was not real pretty baseball, but I am proud of the guys for hanging in there. They''re growing up a little bit." 


Pittman worked two stints in game two after going only 2 1/3 innings to start it. He hit four batters, including three in a row in the top of the third. 


The teams hit 13 batters in game two, were each called for a balk, and walked 10 (seven by Heritage Academy). 


The Volunteers committed six errors in the game. 


"I warned our guys Starkville Academy was going to give us everything they had," Hancock said. "We told them that if they weren''t on their game and that if they expected them to roll over and die they weren''t going to do it." 


Will Fuller had two of Starkville Academy''s five hits in game two. Daughtry and Moore had two RBIs for the Volunteers. 


In game one, Starkville Academy scored six runs in the fifth thanks to five walks to take a 7-3 lead. Heritage Academy battled back to 7-5 and to 8-7 in the bottom of the sixth. 


The Volunteers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh as Heritage Academy committed two of its four errors in the game. 


Moore, Farley Fondren, and Fuller (two RBIs) each had two hits. Thebaud added two RBIs. 


Mac Thatcher, Rhett, and Braddock each had two hits for the Patriots, who had eight of their nine starters get a hit. 


"I can''t say enough about what coach Hancock has done at Heritage," Brewer said. "Heritage is a night-and-day ballclub from last year. I tip my hat to him. The whole program and the kids, they fought hard. I am not sure that fight is there last year. Coach Hancock and his coaches have put that fight into the kids." 


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.