Hooks’ grand slam ignites Troy

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ENTERPRISE – Two teams remain to battle to become Alabama’s representative in the Dixie Boys World Series in Beufort, South Carolina. Troy and Opelika will meet today at 5 p.m. to determine who that delegate will be.

Troy was pushed twice on Tuesday but found a way to come away victorious. Alexandria was primed to pull out an upset in the nightcap before Devin Hooks stepped to the plate. Troy clung to a 4-3 lead in the fifth with the bases loaded when the lefty crushed a fastball over the right-center field fence. A smiling Hooks pumped his fist as he rounded first base and glanced at the scoreboard which read Troy 8, Alexandria 3.

“I was looking for a curveball because I had trouble with it earlier,” Hooks said. “I got a fastball and I turned on it.”

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That was all the cushion Troy needed as Hunter Baggett relieved starter Jason Fleming and quieted the Alexandria bats.

“Baggett did a great job,” said head coach Gary Fox. “He hasn’t pitched that much and we didn’t know how long he could go but he was great.”

A revved up Alexandria team came out swinging. They would score a run in each of the first three innings on solid base hits and at in the third led 3-1. Fleming stayed out of big trouble using the strikeout as his aide. He fanned six in 4 2/3 innings.

In the bottom of the third, Baggett was hit by a pitch and Rush Hixon singled. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch and Baggett scored on another. Austin Ingram hit a deep sacrifice fly to right to get Hixon home to tie the game.

XaviusBurden broke the tie in the fifth with an RBI double that scored Hixon. After a pair of errors to load the bases, Hooks, who is batting .600 for the tournament, launched his grand slam.

Hooks said after the game that he was sending the ball to his father, who is stationed with the 900th Maintenance Company of the Alabama National Guard in Afghanistan.

Coming into Tuesday’s day game with Jackson, Troy had barely been tested. They certainly hadn’t been in a close game, outscoring their opponents 19-1 in two games. And while the vibe around the park was always that Troy had the game in hand, Jackson never went away and forced Troy to earn their 13-12 victory in the Dixie Boys state tournament.

It wasn’t the cleanest game, as the teams combined for seven errors, but it was a much needed win for Troy making them the only undefeated team remaining meaning they must be beaten twice in the three possible games remaining.

Troy kicked things off with a bang in the first inning when Austin Ingram launched a 2-run homerun to give Troy an early lead. Hunter Baggett extended that lead to 3-0 in the second when he doubled home Devin Hooks.

Jackson responded in the third on a Jacob Sullivan solo shot off of starter Chase Hartley and would tie the game with a 2-run single in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom half, Troy seemed to open things up as they scored nine runs to take a 12-3 advantage. Hooks would collect two hits in the inning the biggest being a two-out 2-RBI double. Baggett, Hartley, Xavius Burden, and Cole LaBrant would also collect run scoring hits.

Jackson came back with a big inning of their own in the fifth. After a single and two walks, a questionable balk was called on Troy reliever Rush Hixon. Jackson then delivered a 2-RBI double to close the gap, 12-9.

Troy would tack on one run in the sixth on Hooks’ sacrifice fly that scored Hartley.

The scrappy bunch from Jackson would not go down quietly in the seventh, however.  They would score three runs and have the tying run on third with two outs. A harmless grounder to second baseman Reilly Fox ended the threat and the game.

Baggett, Burden, Hartley, LaBrant, and Hooks all had multiple hits for Troy, who collected 12 in the game.

Thus far, Troy is averaging 10 runs per game.