May 23, 2013 3:16:08 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
HERNANDO -- New Hope High School junior shortstop Will Golsan had an idea Thursday night.
It turned out to be a brilliant plan.
With his team trailing by a run, Golsan elected to bunt to start the fifth inning. Hernando was unable to make a good throw on the play and Golsan wound up at second base with the hit and error. Landon Boyd followed with another bunt that Hernando couldn't turn into an out.
By the time that lengthy half inning ended, the Trojans had scored four runs and stolen all the momentum. New Hope took advantage of six errors (five in that inning) to post an 8-5 victory in game one of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State championship series at Tiger Field.
The series resumes at 7 tonight in Columbus.
"Will has tremendous speed, and he is our best hitter, so the element of surprise is there," New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. "The other team is never expecting bunt, so he called that play, and it totally turned the entire game around. They had some bad throws in that inning and we took control."
Golsan struck out in his first at-bat. His second at-bat was a towering two-run home run that cleared the scoreboard in left field. After seeing such a massive power display, small ball was the last thing on anybody's mind.
"I noticed the third baseman was way back, so I thought we had something there," Golsan said. "I didn't get the first one down, so it wound up being a swinging bunt (on the third pitch of the at-bat). It was just as effective. We had been fighting uphill all night and we really need mo back on our side.
"Landon comes up and does the same thing. We knew they were a little shaken up then."
Golsan's bunt was fielded by the pitcher, who threw high to first base. With Golsan in scoring position, Boyd bunted on the first pitch and the first baseman dropped the throw. Taylor Stafford followed with the second of his two doubles. An RBI single by Tee Payne gave New Hope the lead for good.
The Tigers followed that up with a hit batter and three-straight errors, including back-to-back miscues at third base.
"After the first inning, we were down 3-0, but we have been in those types of situations all year," said Payne, a senior catcher. "We just kept chipping away because we knew the big inning was coming."
Hernando (16-13) built a 3-0 lead in the first thanks to back-to-back singles by Scott Pala and Stuart Chick and a massive three-run home run by Trey Freeman.
New Hope starter J.C. Redden then settled down and pitched well. He allowed nine hits and five runs (all earned) and was lifted after three straight hits with one out in the fifth.
"J.C. does what he always does. He competes," Lee Boyd said."All you can ask is go out, play hard, and throw strikes. After the first inning, he really settled in and did well."
Golsan's third home run in the third cut the deficit to 3-2. Redden had a hand in this rally with a lead-off double.
"The strikeout (in the first at-bat) was on a changeup," Golsan said. "I waited for that pitch again in the second at-bat. When I got it, I knew what to do with it."
New Hope (24-8) tied the game in fourth on a balk. Hernando had the answer when Caleb Gowen touched Redden for a solo home run.
After three home runs and errorless ball by both teams through four innings, the script was re-written in the fifth. After grabbing the lead, the Trojans turned to Golsan in relief, since closer Stafford threw extensively Monday in a playoff victory against Ridgeland.
"Coach told me at the beginning of the year he was really going to need me in the playoffs," Golsan said, "so I have worked real hard in the pen to get my wildness down. That was something I had to be better at to help this team."
Golsan walked the first batter he faced but escaped the fifth with his team still ahead 7-5. A double and walk made things interesting in the seventh, but a flyout and two ground ball outs closed the victory.
While Hernando had trouble making the routine play, New Hope played errorless ball. A diving catch by Stafford prevented a run-scoring hit in the seventh.
"We have worked very hard on defense," Stafford said."At the beginning of the year, we were booting too many balls. Defense can help you out when you play games like this. You saw what it meant today. Josh Stillman was great out there today. He works behind Will every day in practice and you can tell he has learned a lot from him."
Stillman took over at shortstop when Golsan went to the mound. A rising sophomore, Stillman made two plays at shortstop, including a diving stab in the hole, that prevented a run from scoring.
"This is his first year playing varsity," Lee Boyd said. "This was the first time he was out there in a really meaningful situation. The backhand on one of those plays was unreal. When you win a championship, you never know when a play like is the difference. I am awfully proud of him. Josh works really hard and took advantage of his moment."
New Hope had seven hits, its lowest hit total in eight playoff games. Golsan and Stafford each had multiple hits. Payton Lane and Redden each had doubles. Five of New Hope's seven hits were for extra bases.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter