One day, one game
Published 10:31 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014
Thursday split leaves winner-take-all scenario for Pike, Tuscaloosa Friday
Pike Liberal Arts coach Butch Austin just shrugged his shoulders after the second game of Thursday’s AISA semifinal doubleheader.
After seeing his team do almost everything right in a 10-5 win over Tuscaloosa Academy in game one, he witnessed nothing go the right way in a 13-3 loss in the nightcap.
Pike pitchers hit four batters and walked six in the second game, and the usually tight Patriot defense committed three errors.
“We hit four and walked six, so that is 10 free base runners right there,” said Austin. “You can’t do that. You put yourself behind by making mistakes, and before you know it the game is out of reach.”
Tuscaloosa forced a winner-take-all third game by claiming the blowout win in game two.
The Knights led early in game one as well, but Pike rallied twice to post a 10-spot.
The biggest blow of game one came off the bat of Alabama commit Chandler Avant.
With the bases loaded, and Pike up by two, Avant faced a 3-2 count and was looking for a fastball.
He found every bit of it.
Avant ripped a mammoth grand slam homer to left field that easily cleared the wall and landed nearly on the other side of the football field.
Patriot pitcher Connor Vowell went the distance on the mound for the complete-game win, despite struggling early.
Vowell picked up two quick outs in the top of the first, but then walked the bases loaded. Tuscaloosa eventually scored two early runs.
After the first-inning flare-up, Vowell settled down and went to work. His effort drew praise from Austin.
“Connor did a good job,” said Austin. “He struggled really bad early, and finally calmed down and started throwing like we know he can. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he had enough.”
With game three looming on the horizon, Austin is playing his last Ace in the deck.
Avant will get the ball in the rubber match, and Austin said he will ride his stud as long as possible.
“Chandler is going to pitch,” said Austin. “If it goes 20 innings, he will pitch almost every one of them. The defense will back a good pitcher, and they better back him Friday because he is all we got left.”
Both Pike and Tuscaloosa were in game threes last week.
Tuscaloosa knocked off Lee-Scott Academy, while Pike Liberal beat Fort Dale.
Now with a trip to the state championship series on the line, Austin knows what must happen Friday.
“We have to go out and play baseball,” said Austin. “It is as simple as that. Play loose, have fun and stay focused.”
Friday’s winner-take-all game is set for a 4 P.m. first pitch from Butch Austin Field in Troy.