Collision at plate wrecks
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2000
Carroll in 10-9 CHHS win
By STEVEN G. WATSON
OZARK – When the dust around home plate had settled catcher Jonathan Neeley was the only one left standing and the Charles Henderson baseball team was still undefeated in Area play.
It took extra innings and another nail-biter in the ever-growing rivalry between the Trojans and the Carroll Eagles, but CHHS came away with a 10-9 win that wasn’t decided until the final play.
With the Trojans up 10-8, two outs and men on first and second, Carroll second baseman Spencer Stegall laced a line shot down the left-field line for a double.
One run scored easily, but with the second runner rounding third CHHS left fielder Scott Stetson chased down the ball in the corner and hit his cutoff man at short, Kevin Stephens.
From there, Stephens made a perfect throw to a waiting Neeley who used his girth, as much as anything else, to put the Carroll runner on his backside for the final out giving the Trojans their 21st win of the season, but more importantly a perfect 3-0 record in Class 5A Area 4.
"Every time we play Ozark it’s a game like this," CHHS head coach Steve Garrett said. "This is the fourth time that I’ve coached against them, we’ve got a rivalry here big time. I’m just glad we got this one, because if you beat Ozark here you’ve really done something."
There weren’t all smiles on the faces of the CHHS coaches and players, however. Two costly errors in the bottom of the eighth, with two outs and Charles Henderson up by one had the Trojan faithful extra happy to be walking away with the dramatic win on the road.
After a lead-off single by Justin Sims to start the Trojans’ half of the eighth, Jonathan Neeley punched one out to left off Carroll’s Josh Ivy to give CHHS the go-ahead run 8-7.
All Charles Henderson had to do was hold the Eagles, but with two outs the Trojans committed two throwing errors to first, allowing one run to score. That sent the two teams into a ninth and deciding inning.
"We played terribly defensively," Garrett said. " These guys have a goal to win a state championship and go undefeated in the Area and you can’t play like that if that’s your goal. We’ve got a freshman third baseman, Clint Pugh, that’s making every play. There are freshmen out here doing the job and there are upper classmen that are letting us down a little bit.
"They’re not going to let us down again," he continued. "They’re going to realize they have a chance to run through this Area and make a run in the state."
The freshman left-hander Simms spoiled things for Carroll coming to the mound in relief in the sixth inning. He got the Trojans out of a big jam in that inning leaving two men stranded then, went on to pitch the rest of the way and get the win.
Garrett said he was as impressed with his poise at the plate as he was on the mound in the high-pressure situation.
"You’ve got to love Icky (Simms)," Garrett said. "He’s over there on the bench in tight situations saying; ‘Don’t put me in,’ but when I put him in he’s cold as ice. That kid is a battler at the plate and on the mound."
Sims struck out three in two and a third innings pitched and two singles in his only two at bats, eventually scoring the winning run on a high chopper to short that he beat out running.
Fellow freshman Pugh came up big with the stick as well going 3-for-5 on the night with a triple.
In a game chopped full of big plays, the Eagles struck first with three runs in the first, all coming with two outs, but the Trojans battled back with one run in the third and a huge four-run inning in the fourth.
CHHS sent eight batters to the plate in the fourth and got clutch, two-out hits out of Stephens, Stetson and a double out of B.J. Gralheer to take a 5-3 lead.
Carroll came back with three in their half of the fourth, however to regain the lead 6-5. They also added a run in the fifth to make it 7-5.
The Trojan tied things up in the sixth to set up the extra innings. They got a lot of help from the Eagles on two-straight wild pitches on strike outs in which the CHHS runners made it safely to first.
Then, after loading the bases, Neeley came through with a perfect bunt down the third-base line as the Trojans made the squeeze play look routine to knot the score at 7-7.
Stetson finished the night 2-for-4 with a couple of singles and Will Jones notched a double to round out the Trojan hitting.
Now the Trojans finish up their regular-season and their three final Area games at home starting with Russell County Friday at 5 p.m.