Petitt Cup Playoffs: HiToms take 1-0 series lead
Thomasville got one shot at playing on its home field to start the first round of the Petitt Cup playoffs. They made the most of the lone opportunity.
Sound pitching and late offense has given the HiToms a temporary advantage in the best-of-three series, as the surging club dominated every facet of the game en route to a 5-0 shutout of Columbia. Game 2 shifts to South Carolina tonight, with Game 3 also taking place at the home of the Blowfish Friday if necessary.
“I can’t complain,” said HiToms manager Zach Brown. “We pitched very well and we finally came around with the bats later in the night.”
In a short series, getting in the win column first is critical. Both sides realized the importance, sending their aces to the hill. Columbia went with Cord Cockrell and he was as advertised, striking out seven in the same amount of innings. During one stretch he retired 14 straight hitters. The HiToms sent Dylan Stoops to the hill and he was sharp as well, but cause for concern came in the fourth. After issuing a two-out walk, he took a lengthy trip around the mound but would stay in. He got the final out, but the lefty would not return to the rubber. His replacements kept the dominance going. Nick Miller tossed two scoreless innings, with Austin Blunt completing the final three frames.
“Stoops was getting a little soreness in his elbow and that was a scary moment,” said Brown. “Miller came in and did a great for two innings and Blunt brought it home. I didn’t want to use Blunt that much tonight, but we did what we had to do to win.”
With the game progressing rapidly, the Tommies were the first to scratch in the sixth inning. Evan Stephens was struck by a Cockrell pitch with two outs. Putting good wood on the ball in nearly every at-bat, Sam Foy sizzled a single up the middle to advance Stephens 90 feet. South Carolina’s Kyle Martin followed with a single as well to right field. In a race to the plate, Stephens just slid in before the throw arrived for what turned into the winning run.
Stephens had a hand in preventing the Blowfish from scoring the first run a half inning before. Columbia had Eros Modena standing on second after a double. When Chase Shelton slashed a ball to center, Modena charged home with Stephens firing to the plate. Taking two hops, catcher Max Gagnon corralled the bouncing ball and tagged out Modena who chose not to slide on the play.
“That was a big momentum swing,” said Brown. “It was a great throw, but an even better tag and catch by Max. The guy did not slide and Max made a nice pick and tag.”
Stephens was at it again in the seventh and the HiToms began to open things up. After a couple of Columbia miscues allowed for one run, Stephens connected for a two-out single off the outstretched glove of third baseman Allen Staton to score runs three and four.
Columbia never posed a serious threat the final two frames while the HiToms tacked on one more piece of insurance in the eighth on a double by Martin and Alex Raburn infield single.
Protecting the home turf was crucial in the eyes of Brown.
“It was very important,” he said. “You don’t want to go on the road and feel like the pressure’s on. Then again, we don’t want to get to Friday either. Right now we have the momentum and I would like to keep it.”
Cox, Foy and Martin all finished with two hits for the HiToms, who will send Josh Frederick to the hill for Game 2. David Duncan will oppose him for Columbia.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or email@example.com.