McIntosh picks up pair of huge region wins over Griffin
by Rob Grubbs
With second place in the region and a first-round home playoff series at stake, the McIntosh Chiefs faced off against the Griffin Bears in a key three-game set to sort out the standings for Region 3-AAAAA. The two evenly-matched teams had been swept by Starr’s Mill earlier in the season but had handled their other region opponents with only one loss each. The Chiefs came from behind in both games one and two for huge region wins and earned the opportunity to go for the series sweep on Friday.
In game one at the Bears Den on Tuesday, Griffin scored two runs in the second and third innings for a 4-0 lead which it carried into the top of the fifth. With the game winding down and outs running out, Griffin appeared to take command by throwing a base runner out attempting to steal second. However, after a one-out walk to Zach Sanders, Christophe Senghor laced a frozen rope over the centerfield fence to cut the lead in half. The shot not only produced runs for the Chiefs but also changed the attitude and demeanor of the team as well. They took the field for defense in the bottom of the fifth with renewed focus and energy.
Chief Coach David Munoz called on relief pitcher Tyler Biltimier in the bottom of the third. He threw three innings of scoreless relief to keep the Griffin offense in check, and he also came up big for the offense, slicing a one-out single against a drawn-in infield to tie the game up. It is huge when a team can bring in a player not in the starting lineup to change the complexion of a game, which is exactly what Biltimier did. He brought it when it was needed the most.
The game would not be tied for long as the Chiefs used three consecutive singles and a Griffin error to push three runs across for the final margin of 7-4. The back end of the McIntosh bullpen, Hudson MacNellis and Connor Kosevic, got the final four outs to seal the win. Munoz said, “Senghor’s homer woke us up. We needed it. After that, we were able to get runners on, moved over, and driven in. It was a great team effort. We did the little things.”
Game two of the series shifted to the Chiefs’ home field in a game that featured top starters for both teams, senior Zach Sanders for McIntosh, who had just signed to continue his baseball career at Tusculum College in Tennessee, versus Griffin hurler Kody Fulghum ,who had given Starr’s Mill fits in his previous start.
Griffin jumped out early on a couple of walks and two defensive miscues for a 2-0 lead, but the Chief offense fought right back, scoring two runs to tie things up on a Kyle Riesselmann triple with two outs. The Chiefs increased their lead in the fourth, scoring three runs on a walk, two singles, and a three-base error on the Bears.
While Sanders had cruised since the first inning, he got two quick outs in the sixth before the Bears put together a rally of their own, scoring two runs to cut the Chief lead to 5-4 with their potent part of the lineup coming up in the seventh.
The Chiefs needed some insurance, and they found just the policy they needed with Riesselmann hitting a leadoff double followed by a Jacob Cole single and a hit batsman to load things up with two outs. Game one star Senghor once again made his presence felt with a single, which combined with an error to score three more runs for McIntosh.
They would need every one of those runs, as the Bears continued to claw back, getting four consecutive singles to bring the tying run to the plate with only out. The damage could have been worse, but Reisselmann had cut down a Bear runner trying to advance to third on a laser throw from right field. Koscevic retired the final two Bear hitters to preserve the 8-4 win.
For his part, Reisselmann, who was 2 for 2 with a double, a triple, and two RBI, said, “It was big to be able to produce with the bat tonight. The throw to get the runner in the seventh was nice, but I was more pleased with how I swung the bat today compared to game one.”
With the win, the Chiefs now have a two-game lead with four region games left, including the series finale which was played Friday night back in Griffin. One more win will guarantee the second spot and sets up an opening playoff matchup against Harris County at home.
Starr’s Mill fends off fierce challenge from Fayette County
by Christopher Dunn
The Fayette County Tigers gave the top-ranked Starr’s Mill Panthers everything they could handle and then some in the opening game of their best-of-three series Tuesday night. The Tigers kept the Panthers, who have not lost a region game all year, on their toes all night before letting them squeak out a 2-1 win in extra innings.
The pitching was tremendous all game, especially from starters Chance Amell and Ahmad Ali. Amell gave the Panthers five innings of scoreless, 1 hit pitching. Ali was an absolute horse for the Tigers, throwing 7 innings and allowing just 1 run and 4 hits. Even when it looked like the Panthers were solving him, he battled through and shut them down time and again, only exiting the game when he hit the mandatory pitch limit of 115 pitches.
Neither offense was able to crack up the pitcher’s duel through the first several frames. In the top of the fifth, the Tigers made a push, including an infield single by Jacob Sangster, but a great play at the hot corner cooled them off as Tyler Courtney knocked down a sharp shot, corralled it in foul territory, and fired a laser to first to get the runner.
With the region’s top seed sewn up, Starr’s Mill started mixing up their lineup in the bottom half of the inning. Michael Norton singled, and Ryan Henderson and Hunter Lawson were both plunked to load the bases with one out. Norton was tagged out racing home on a wild pitch, but they would juice the bases again with a Brian Port walk. Ali stayed calm and induced an inning-ending pop up to keep the scoreboard clean.
Will Evans came in to pitch in the top of the sixth and recorded two quick outs. The Tigers locked in, Paul Jenkins smoking a ball into the left-center gap. He turned on the jets and slid into third just under the tag for a triple. Jeremai Joseph followed suit, roping an opposite-field triple to plate the game’s first run.
Evans settled in from there, shutting down Fayette the rest of the way.
Nathan Price led off the bottom half with a double, but it looked like the Panthers might squander it after a strikeout and an infield popup. Norton started his campaign for redemption, tying up the game with a shallow bloop in between first and right field to tie the game at 1-1.
Sangster walked in the seventh, but the Panthers turned them away with a 6-4-3 double play. The Panthers went down in order in the bottom half to send the game to extra innings.
Tucker Dorrity led off with a single and moved over to third on a pair of sac bunts, but they could not capitalize.
The Panthers went to work in the bottom half, staying patient and loading the bases with walks for Evans, Mitchell Sutton, and Cole Gilley. With the infield in, Norton poked the ball between third and short for the walk-off run in a 2-1 win.
Starr’s Mill made game two much more convincing with an 18-1 victory Thursday night.
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