May 8, 2010 11:54:00 PM
ACKERMAN -- The Hamilton Lions survived a late scare from Ackerman to post a 9-8 win Saturday and advance in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs.
Hamilton (20-3) dethroned the defending state champions by building a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning and holding on through a furious rally that saw the desperate Indians plate four runs in the sixth inning.
Relief pitcher Chase Reeves rebounded from the shaky sixth by striking out three batters in the final inning.
Hamilton advances to play the winner of Eupora and Bruce, which are tied 1-1 after Bruce evened the series on Saturday.
"It''s exactly how I figured it would be," Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said. "I knew it would be a battle and (Ackerman) wouldn''t quit. I worried, even when we were up 7-1, because I knew they wouldn''t quit."
Earnest remarked Friday following the Lions'' 11-1 win in the series opener he knew Game 2 would be a much different game than the one-hitter tossed by Dylan Earnest.
For four innings Saturday, though, it was the Lions having their way with Ackerman pitcher Pat Scribner.
Hamilton answered Andrew Furr''s RBI ground out with a sacrifice fly by Graham Pritchett and an RBI single by Kevin McCartney in the second inning for a 3-1 lead.
In the third, Cole Gill made it 6-1 with a three-run homer to left field.
Scribner left the game in the fifth in favor of Southern Miss signee Andrew Furr, who has been battling arm soreness since last week''s playoff series against Mantachie. Furr was a question mark to start the game, but went three innings and gave up two runs in the sixth. He retired the side in the fifth and seventh.
Scribner gave up seven runs on eight hits in four innings. He struck out just one batter.
Hamilton''s Austin Earnest (6-2) gave up three runs on eight hits in four innings. He struck out six to get the win.
The Indians (16-11) missed a chance to make the game closer in the second inning when Nolan Long flied out to center field and stranded three base runners.
Ackerman later had a base runner picked off at first and caught trying to steal second base.
If the Indians were nervous chasing a lead, they didn''t show it in their comeback bid.
Trailing 9-4, the Indians plated four runs on two outs through Furr''s RBI single and a crucial two-run single by Scribner. The Indians got another run after an error at first base.
Hamilton went three up, three down in the top of the seventh and sent Reeves to the mound with confidence.
"Every time I threw a strike, they hit it," Reeves said of the sixth inning. "(Lewis Earnest) said ''we have confidence in you, so just have it in yourself.'' I knew I had eight guys that had my back."
Will Halford singled for Ackerman and reached second on a wild pitch before Reeves ended with three straight strikeouts.
Hamilton''s celebration following the exciting win was low-key and for a good reason, Reeves said.
"Last time we made it, I was a freshman and when we won North Half (Lewis Earnest) told us don''t celebrate until we win the big one," said Reeves. "Nothing matters unless we win that one."
To Lewis Earnest, that mindset has existed all season.
"I hate to say it, but they expect to be there," he said. "They feel like they should have been there last year. Two years in a row before that, we got there and left it there. This bunch has been playing real tight, close together. If someone''s not playing good, they''ll joke around and it kind of loosens them up.
"When they''re loose I feel pretty good. When they''re quiet, I kind of get worried."
Devin Hopper was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Dylan Earnest went 2 for 4.
n Hamilton 11, Ackerman 1: At Hamilton on Friday, the Lions took the series lead by beating Ackerman in five innings by the mercy rule.
Dylan Earnest made sure his team opened the series with a statement.
The junior turned in a complete-game, one-hitter to lead Hamilton to the victory.
Earnest struck out 11 and had his no-hitter broken up by a Nolan Long single in the fifth inning.
Surprising against the defending state champions? Kind of, Lewis Earnest said.
"He threw strikes, moved it around and was able to throw the breaking ball for strikes," Lewis Earnest said. "Almost a perfect game, really. They''re a good hitting ball team and they do a lot of things right. They just weren''t able to do it tonight.
"Facing Dylan, that''s pretty tough odds."
Hopper led Hamilton with three RBIs, including a two-run homer to left field in the fifth inning.
Leadoff hitter Kevin McCartney was 3 for 3 for Hamilton.
After taking a 2-0 lead into the third inning, Dylan Earnest helped his own cause with a two-run single to right field.
The Lions added to their 4-0 advantage with RBIs by Graham Pritchett, Parker Rye and McCartney.
Nathan Cockerham ended the game with a walkoff single in the fifth.