Hixon#039;s pinch hit drives in winning run in extra innings
CECIL - Sometimes it's not the runs you score that win games, it's the runs you don't give up.
Pike Liberal Arts edged region rival Macon-East 1-0 in eight innings Tuesday, getting contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup.
Freshman Ross Hixon hit a pressure-packed pinch-hit single in the top of the eighth that drove in the game's only run. Senior center fielder Daniel Farrar threw out a Knights baserunner at the plate in the bottom of the inning to preserve the victory.
The eighth inning culminated a tremendous pitching duel between the Patriots' Shane Lewis and Macon-East's Daniel Selph. Lewis gave up six hits and struck out seven. Selph gave up seven hits and escaped trouble by stranding 10 Pike baserunners.
But when the game went to extra innings, the Patriots ended it quickly. Avant and Farrar had singles to lead it off. Avant went to third on Farrar's third hit of the game and Farrar stole second. Coach Butch Austin sent Hixon to pinch hit for senior Barry Rodgers. He missed a sacrifice bunt attempt and looked at a second strike. But Hixon then singled up the middle, scoring Avant. Farrar tried to get some insurance on the play, was called out on an extremely close play at the plate.
“It was a bang-bang play, but I thought I was safe,” Farrar said. “He tagged me, but I thought my foot crossed the plate first.”
The Patriots gave Lewis the only run he needed, but it didn't look that way early in the bottom of the eighth. Lewis gave up a leadoff double to Wes Cook. The next batter, Walker Gant, singled sharply up the middle. Farrar charged for the ball.
“I was only worried about catching it,” Farrar said. “Once I caught it I saw him about to round third and knew I had to sling it. I didn't know I made that good of a throw. It shocked me.”
Farrar threw a pea that beat Cook to the plate by 15 feet. Catcher Bradley Floyd tagged him out on a play that ignited the Patriots.
“We were sagging a little and I think that gave the team a spark,” Farrar understated.
Credit Floyd for not posing with the ball. He kept Gant at first base. The next hitter, Josh Owings, lined what looked like a sure base hit to right field. Only Justin Henderson got an amazing jump on the ball and made his second superb catch of the game. He nearly doubled Owings off first base, but he was called safe. No matter, Lewis sealed the win with a final strikeout.
“Ross Hixon, a freshman, that was really clutch,” Farrar said. “You couldn't ask anybody to do it any better. And Shane couldn't have pitched any better. He kept us in it. It was a team effort today.”
The Patriots, 18-4, now have an even bigger game Friday against Lee-Scott at home. The teams split at Lee-Scott, and the winner of the 4 p.m. showdown has the inside track at a state tournament berth.