Patriots outlast Tuscaloosa

Published 10:05 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

The Pike Patriots scored two runs in the sixth inning and held on to beat Tuscaloosa Academy 2-1 on day one of the Jonah McWaters Tournament.

Day one had it all for the Patriots; great pitching and timely hitting with a lot of excitement thrown in.

“That was a great baseball game by both teams,” said Patriots head coach Allen Ponder. “Like I told my boys, that was a playoff style baseball game right there. You have to be able to win those close baseball games. We kept battling and battling and eventually we were able to get that big hit and win the ball game.”

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Patriots starting pitcher, Justin Helms, stole the show on day one. The Patriots offense didn’t give him much to work with but the young hurler went the distance, allowing just one run on three hits.

“Justin Helms threw an outstanding baseball game,” Ponder said. “It was the best I have seen him throw in two years. I am very proud of him.”

“There was a lot going through my mind tonight,” Helms said. “I was just proud that I had a great group of guys behind me to back me up. We finally got on the board and I stayed in the ball game and kept my head in it. I did everything I could.”

Both teams struggled offensively to get going and it wasn’t until the fifth inning that either offense got anything going. Tuscaloosa got on the board first on a sacrifice fly to give them a 1-0 lead.

With time dwindling down in the hour and forty minute timeline, Pike failed to get the tying run on the board in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Fortunately, Helms and the defense forced Tuscaloosa to go down 1-2-3 to give the offense another chance.

Kiegan Simmons led off the inning with a double to left field to get the offense in gear for the Patriots. The next batter, Wood Jinright followed up with a double of his own to right field that scored Simmons to tie the game at two. Reed Johnson entered the game to pinch run for Jinright and came around to score the go ahead run when Hayes Lee reached on an error by the shortstop.

Helms and the Patriots needed one more stop in the seventh and it wasn’t easy. After getting a quick out, Helms let up a single to the shortstop. After a strike out, Helms hit the next batter in the back, sending the tying run to second base.

Assistant coach Doug Price went out to check on Helms after it appeared that he hurt his back. Helms demanded that he stay in the game and forced a groundout to shortstop to end the game.

“I wanted to give everything that I had,” Helms said. “I wanted to give whatever it took. I wanted the game and I wanted to finish it out.”

The Patriots will continue with the tournament later today when they play a pair of games an noon against Crenshaw then again at six against Abbeville.