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Extra inning magic

EUFAULA – It took Troy until the late innings to take out Geneva the first time the two teams met in the District Tournament.

On Friday night, it took extra innings, but in the end, it was Troy who finished on top.

After a three-hour, 10-inning ball game, Troy was able to outlast Geneva again, winning 6-2, punching a ticket to the State Tournament in the process.

“I am so exhausted right now,” head coach Sam Kitchens said after the marathon baseball game. “Words can’t describe what I am feeling right now – in my 36 years coaching I don’t know if I have ever been so proud of a team.

“They fight for everything. They don’t believe in excuses and they expect to win.”

Troy got an early lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a double by Luke Hastings.

Two batters later, Brian Adams would step up to the plate and bring his teammate home to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Geneva would respond, however, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first to claim the lead.

After a rocky 35-pitch, two-run first inning, Troy starting pitcher Blake Craft found his groove, as he set Eufaula down over the next couple of innings.

At one point, Craft struck out five in a row, as he held the opposing batters hitless in four straight innings.

Before being taken out of the game after the fifth inning, Craft struck out 10 of the last 15 batters he faced.

Craft would bail himself out in the third inning, thanks to an RBI-double, bringing Hastings home for the second time in the game,after he reached base on a single.

The score would remain tied at two for the next six innings, despite strong efforts from both teams.

In both the top of the sixth and seventh innings, Troy had runners in scoring positions with two outs, but was unable to advance them to home plate either time.

Coming in in relief for Craft was John Michael Stephens, and like his predecessor, Stephens was just as unhittable.

In the five innings Stephens pitched, he got the win ,only giving up three hits and striking out five.

“At first, I wasn’t so sure about Blake,” Kitchens said, “I was thinking about pulling him.”

“But, Blake is the kind of pitcher that once he settles down, he is dominant, and that was the case (Friday night).

“And John Michael faced the most pressure a kid his age can face and pitched five great inning,” the coach added.

In the top of the tenth inning, after Craft reached on an error and Myles Loving was hit by a pitch, Adams connected on a pitch to deep right center field.

Adams ended up with a standup triple and both base runners crossed the plate, giving Troy a 4-2 lead.

Kenyatta Jones struck out in the next at-bat, but the ball made it past the catcher, resulting in Adams coming in to score to give Troy a three-run lead.

The Troy hit parade continued, as Stephens made it to second base thanks to a liner to left field and later scored thanks to a Geneva error off of a Tyler Lord hit, giving Troy a 6-2 lead heading into the bottom of the tenth.

“When I got that hit, I was very happy,” Adams said after the game. “It was about time we got a hit like that.

“Everyone was pretty frustrated at times, but we all stayed pumped in the dugout – this was unlike any other game,” he added.

In all, Troy had just seven hits, as Hastings finished 2-5 with two runs and Brian Adams finished 2-4 with three RBIs.

Troy will now head to Scottsboro, where it will participate in the State Tournament, which will begin on July 16.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how we will compete at the next level,” Kitchens said.