April 27, 2013

Bruins leap for joy

Rally past Cass to win Region 7-4A baseball title

Devin Golden
devingolden@daltoncitizen.com

TUNNEL HILL — One play was a metaphor for the game.

The Northwest Whitfield High School baseball team’s chances of winning a Region 7-4A title were slim. So were Kyle Brock’s chances of scoring.

So Brock did the only thing he could to score — some sort of half-jump, half-dive — and the Bruins leaped with him, over the Cass Colonels and to a championship.

Northwest scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a dramatic 7-6 win at Richard S. Chumley Field to win the final game of the three-game Region 7-4A championship series. They’ll be the No. 1 seed when the Class 4A state playoffs begin next week as they take on Region 6 No. 4 seed Grady. Northwest would host through at least the second round.

Northwest (21-5) lost the first game of the series 4-1 on Thursday, but rallied later that night to win the second game 4-2 in 10 innings and force the decisive third game.

The Bruins trailed 6-3 entering the sixth inning Friday. Wade Terrell was hit by a pitch and Kyle Brock reached on an error by the second baseman to lead off.

After Andy Whisenant struck out, Brandon Smith’s single drove in Will Brock to cut the Cass (16-8) lead to 6-4. Then Kyle Brock advanced to third and Smith to second on a wild pitch, setting up the game’s craziest play.

Brady Middleton hit a grounder to shortstop Sam Ayers. Kyle Brock came home on contact, and Ayers’ throw to the plate brought catcher Sam Russell into the baseline and to his knees.

Kyle Brock would’ve been out by two steps, but he only took one.

“I saw the catcher get down in front of the plate and just knew they were throwing it to (him),” said Kyle Brock, a first baseman. “So I knew I couldn’t get around him. I saw he was down on the ground.”

He leaped over Russell, spread his legs to avoid a tag and landed behind him. His fist hit home plate first, and then his leg. One-run game. Everyone safe.

“I think the attitude was we were going to take care of business,” said Northwest coach Todd Middleton, a former Bruins player who has been the program’s leader for 11 years and guided the team to region titles in 2005 and 2007. “I don’t know if we thought we’d score four runs in that inning, but (Brock’s dive) definitely changed the atmosphere.”

The next batter, shortstop Diego Peralta, drove the first pitch down the right-field line and into the corner for a double. Smith scored from third and Middleton from first.

Just like that it was 7-6, Bruins.

“When Kyle jumped over him and scored, that just gave us more momentum,” Bruins right fielder Seth Pierce said. “Then when Diego got that double, I was down in the bullpen and was going crazy.”

Wade Terrell pitched six innings for the Bruins, allowing four earned runs off 10 hits. Pierce pitched the seventh, and aside from a two-out walk, had no trouble. The final out was a hard grounder to Brock, who knocked it down and stepped on first.

“I was sitting over there at first thinking, ‘I hope they hit it to me, because I’m going to make this out,’” Kyle Brock recalled.

Cass scored the game’s first run in the second inning and later loaded the bases with two outs. Northwest catcher A.J. Orozco threw behind Chris Morton, who was too far off the base to get back. Peralta chased him to third and seemed to tag him in time, but the nearest umpire called Morton safe.

Austin Gore, who had already taken off from third to home, collided with Orozco before the throw arrived and touched the plate. Morton then scored from third as the ball rolled away.

The Bruins got two of those runs back in their next at-bat. Orozco and Pierce started with back-to-back doubles to score one run, while Kyle Brock’s single drove in the other. Cass scored twice in the fourth to make it 5-2, but Northwest got one run in its half of the inning when Smith beat out a double play and Will Brock scored from third.

LSU signee Dylan Williams led off the fifth with a home run, giving Cass a 6-3 lead.

“We just come to compete,” Colonels coach Adam Williams said, “and that’s what we did. My players busted their tails, and I’m proud of them.”

Chaz Wilson pitched 5 1/3 innings for Cass, allowing seven runs off five hits and four walks. Chris Hill pitched 2/3 of an inning, with his first pitch the one Peralta doubled to give Northwest its only lead — and ultimately, the region title.

Mount Pisgah Christian 10, Christian Heritage 9: The Lions (12-11) allowed four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and lost their Region 6-A crossover game, the regular season finale.

Christian Heritage had 15 hits total. Spencer Robbins and Jake Stokes each went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Brady Souther went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Tre Mason had two hits and one RBI. Ian Robbins and Chase Tidwell contributed 2-for-4 efforts.

Michael McKinney pitched six innings for the Lions, allowing 10 hits for seven runs (six earned) while walking three and striking out two. Spencer Robbins took the loss, pitching 2/3 of an inning and allowing three runs off three hits.

Christian Heritage entered the week ranked 11th in the Georgia High School Association’s Class A private school power rankings. The top 16 teams reach the state playoffs, which start next week.

“Now we’re just waiting to see what our power rating will be,” Lions coach Noah Stokes said. “It comes out Tuesday. I think we’re in, but if we won we’d be in for sure. We’ll wait and see what the math says.”

• In a late result from Thursday, Dalton’s season ended with a 5-1 loss at River Ridge in a Region 7-4A playoff series. The Catamounts finished the year 11-14.

River Ridge was the No. 2 seed from Sub-region 7A-4A, while Dalton was the No. 3 seed from Sub-region 7B-4A.

The second and third seeds from each sub-region crossed over to play a best-of-three series, with a state tournament berth going to each series winner.

The host Knights, who won the first game of the series 4-3 in extra innings on Wednesday, scored four runs in the fourth inning Thursday, with three runs coming home on a fielding error in the outfield.

The Knights scored their other run in the fifth, while Dalton’s lone run came in the third. Matt Wells walked, stole second base and came home on a single by Kaleb Hill, who had one of Dalton’s three hits, all of which were singles.

River Ridge was held to four hits by Dalton starter Brandon Dale, who allowed one earned run on three walks and struck out seven.

The Cats, who were in their first year under coach Shane Ramsey, missed the state playoffs for the third year in a row after making it every season from 2007 to 2010. Dalton made some improvement on an 8-18 mark from 2012, but Ramsey and his players wanted and expected to be playing next week when the Class 4A state playoffs started.

Ramsey said the team’s inexperience and youth showed at times this season, but that there “was some progress” and “some kids who had great years.”

“We gave ourselves an opportunity to get into the state playoffs,” he said. “So we’re just building on that. I like the direction of where the program’s headed, and they’re hungry to get to the offseason and get better. ... Yeah, we’re disappointed. But I’m proud of my kids. They competed and that’s all I could ask.”

After struggling early in the season, the Cats enjoyed success when they began sub-region play, cranking up their offense and winning nine straight games before being swept by Northwest and dropping two of three games to Heritage-Catoosa in their final two sub-region series.

“Early in the year when we had problems, we couldn’t get the timely hit when we needed it,” Ramsey said. “We would have a lot of hits but we couldn’t score. When we won nine straight, we were getting those hits and scoring runs. But we reverted back during the Northwest series.

“What I want next year, and we’ve already talked about it and it’s one of our goals, is to be more consistent.”