March 1, 2009
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
A walkoff home run would have been more dramatic.
But Brent Younger already had homered in the bottom of the seventh inning, so he opted for a more subdued method of earning the game-winning RBI.
Younger''s bases-loaded walk with two outs capped a five-run uprising in the seventh that lifted the New Hope High School baseball team to a 12-11 victory against Amory at Trojan Field.
The script for the victory was as improbable as how its hero sparked the rally.
Younger, the No. 9 hitter, hit his first career homer off Amory right-handed reliever Will Cox to start the final half inning.
The left-handed hitting shortstop capitalized on the elements and lifted his drive into the wind that carried it over the fence in right-center field.
"I was just trying to get on base," Younger said. "It was a fastball right over the plate."
The blast cut New Hope''s deficit to 11-8 and forced Amory coach Chad Williams to bring on Drew Pickle to try to close the game.
Getting another chance to hit with an opportunity to win the game was the last thing Younger imagined would happen to him.
Yet a walk, hit batter, fielder''s choice, walk, throwing error, hit batter, and walk set the stage for Younger''s second at-bat of the inning.
Younger said he went to the plate with the same approach as his leadoff home run. He had watched as Pickle hit pinch-hitter Davis Lee and walked Jared Shelton to make it 11-10 and he knew not to be too aggressive at the plate.
"I was just trying to find a gap and get the winning run in," Younger said. "The walk was just as good to me. We were taking until we got a strike, so I told myself not to hit unless it was perfect and try to help the team."
Younger worked the count to 2-0, took a strike, and then waited out two more balls to help New Hope (5-3) rebound from a disappointing 5-4 loss Friday night at Kosciusko.
"I think it is big," Younger said. "Maybe we can get some momentum and get our confidence back up."
New Hope coach Stacy Hester wondered if he was watching his team in the first few innings.
The Trojans committed three errors in the top of the first that allowed Amory (4-4) to take a 3-0 lead. The Panthers scored four more runs in the second and three more in the third.
New Hope starter Jake Smith lasted only one-plus inning before he was relieved by Blake Roberts, who pitched 2/3 of an inning. Gabe Franks came on and faced one batter and threw three balls to another before he was lifted.
Derrick Saucer retired one batter before Hester removed him for Jake Upton, who threw 47 pitches Friday night. Upton settled things down and gave way to Hunter Gibson, who helped limit Amory to one baserunner in the final two innings.
In fact, Amory''s seventh inning was the only inning in which it went down in order.
Williams said his team''s four errors and its complaints about umpiring (the Panthers disputed Lee getting hit on an inside pitch in the bottom of the seventh) ultimately factored into the defeat.
"We go dry in the top of the fifth, the top of the sixth, and the top of the seventh and that took us out of the game," Williams said. "They took the momentum from us and never quit."
Meanwhile, New Hope scratched away at the deficit.
New Hope pinch-runner Johnny Beamon ran though a stop sign and still scored in the fifth on Dillon Hawkins'' wind-blown double to right field to make it 11-5.
Despite stranding 11 runners through six innings and having runners erased at third base and at home, Gibson''s second two-run double, this one in the sixth, made it 11-7.
"We can make excuses all day long about the weather, the conditions, and the fact that the field is not very good," Hester said. "Then you make eight errors. I am thinking why am I coaching this game? I told the kids it is not about me, it''s about what they do to get better.
"Then you look at the last four innings, it is two different teams."
Hester credited Upton for regrouping after a tough outing against Kosciusko, and said his ability to throw strikes Saturday was the key.
Gibson, who hadn''t pitched all season, followed suit and was the last man standing to get the victory.
"How do you explain the last inning or two?" Hester said. "The guys battled hard down 11-3 and did some things at the plate. We had guys who didn''t do very well at the plate and weren''t competing hard, but it is a big win, especially where we are after losing a district game (Friday night). It''s an incredible win for our kids."
Gibson led the Trojans with three doubles, but Younger, who had three hits and reached base in all five plate appearances, was the catalyst against Cox, who pitched five-plus solid innings.
"I thought (Cox) did a real good job," Williams said. "He went out there and competed and went as long as he could."
But the home run provided the spark Hester wants to see in his players every inning of every game.
"It was awesome," Hester said. "(Younger) hits a home run and the whole attitude of the dugout changes, because they were flat, they''re wanting to go home, to get something to eat, to get warm because it has been a long day. ... The home run just fired everybody up. It was a big hit for us."
Amory plays a division game against Houston on Tuesday.
New Hope''s game against Starkville, which was originally scheduled for Saturday night, has been rescheduled for Thursday night.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.