Herbert Hoover's Corey Bird steals third as Sissonville's J.R. Stricklen awaits the throw early in their Class AA sectional contest at Hoover.
Herbert Hoover coach Brian Young said Clayton Edens has become the team's de facto closer this season.On Monday, Edens took his act to both halves of the eighth inning.The senior came off the bench and sat Sissonville down in order in the top of the eighth, then laced a single to right field in the bottom to score Tristan Fields as the host Huskies claimed the first game of Class AA Region 4 Section 1, 4-3. "I haven't felt that good all season to be honest," Edens said. "That was a good feeling running in from second base after that hit. That started us off on the right foot. We're going to roll off of that from here."
The extra-inning drama punctuated what was a terrific duel between two of the area's best pitchers, Hoover sophomore Fields and Sissonville junior Zach Null.Fields retired 13 of the first 14 hitters, not throwing his first ball until the seventh hitter of the game. Twenty-six of his first 31 pitches were strikes.On the other side, Null rode guts, guile, and a sweeping 12-6 curve ball to a performance that could've been good enough had he gotten more help from his young defense.
After Zach Mullins hit a leadoff single in the fourth for the Huskies (21-8), Fields skied a ball deep to left field that was misplayed by Dillan Asbury and fell for a double. Ryan Shamblin drove in Mullins with a sacrifice fly to center, and then Fields scored on an error by Asbury on another misjudged fly.The Indians (10-20) locked the score at 2-2 on a two-run single from Leighton Baldwin in the next frame, and grabbed the lead in the top of the sixth when Houston Hill singled in Null, who led off with a double.That left Null looking at finishing the upset, but he faced one of the tougher Class AA lineups.
But after Shamblin walked with one out in the sixth and Austin Thomas singled him to second, Cody Bowen hit a grounder to short that could've possibly been a double play, but second baseman Andy Minsker dropped the ball on the exchange between his glove and his hand. Thomas was still called out at second as the umpire ruled Minsker held onto the ball long enough, but Shamblin scored when the ball rolled into left field. The game went to extra innings, setting up Edens' heroics."They stayed focused for eight innings," Young said. "They never quit, never hung their heads when we went up and they came back. That's a good ball club, their pitcher kept us off balance, we put it in play but couldn't get it to fall. It very easily could've went the other way but we stuck in there and battled through and came up big."It was quite a contrast watching Null and Fields work. Listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Fields played the role of imposing power pitcher while Null, just 5-7, changed speeds and locations to get the job done.Null is the Indians' lone junior, as the rest of the team is made up of sophomores and freshmen.
"It was a heck of a game, both pitchers threw real well," Sissonville coach Kenny Harper said. "We've just got to cut out mistakes. We had two dropped balls in left field and a boy dropped a ball on a double play; cut out that stuff and we're right there. We've been doing that all year but we've been getting better and they will get better and better."Fields struck out eight and walked two in his seven innings, giving up six hits with all three Indian runs being earned. He was also 2-for-4 with a double while Hunter White was 3-for-4 with a double.Null had a pair of strikeouts and gave up seven hits while going 2-for-4 at the plate.Hoover will play Clay County at 6 p.m. today, and Sissonville will face the loser on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The two remaining teams will play at 6 p.m. Thursday.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.