Tigers learn lesson of hard knocks in narrow defeat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

MONTGOMERY – Hard knocks are a part of baseball, but Saturday’s game three 11-10 loss to 4A state champion Hokes Bluff in the bottom of the seventh inning left a scar that the Demopolis High Tigers will bare forever.

It was perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament filled with a roller coaster of emotion, with plenty of heart stopping plays and devastating mistakes.

“I guess it was a great game from a fans point of view,” DHS head coach James Moody said. ‘But from a coaches view point, it was a bit much.”

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It was, to say the least, a picture perfect game, the kind you only find in a movie. A defending state champion, who had won 15 consecutive playoff games in two years and an underdog from a small town, who no one knew much about, come together for an action packed, yet heart felt story.

After a 3-0 Bart Pettus three-hit shutout in game two of the state finals three-game series, the 18-year wait looked to be over. But as the third and final game of the series would unfold, there arose a cloud out of the South that would eventually dump it’s heavy rain on the Tigers and give the Eagles of Hokes Bluff their second consecutive state championship.

The deciding factor would come in the bottom of the seventh inning when Eagles third baseman Nick Wheeler singled of the glove of second baseman Blake Butler to score shortstop Daniel Langley from second for the game-winning run.

“I saw the ball go off his glove,’ Wheeler said. “I think it helped, because (Washington) has a great arm and if it had been a clean hit to right, we might not have scored.”

But though the seventh inning would give the Eagles the win, the sixth inning was where the game would be lost.

Trailing 6-5 in the top of the sixth, the Tigers’ bats would come alive to produce five runs on seven hits to take a 10-6 lead. Junior Clarke Kerby (1-for-3) would get things started for the Tigers with a walk off Eagles relief pitcher Daryl Otwell. Chris Wasson would pinch run for Kerby who was still suffering with back spasms that had flared up the week before.

Wasson would advance to second when third baseman Seth Basinger singled to left field. Though senior Jonathan Sommers (0-for-3) would ground out, Basinger and Wasson would advance one base to put runners at second and third with one out.

Junior G. W. Washington (3-for-4) would then keep the Tigers drive alive with a hard hit to Otwell that he would beat out. Wasson would score on the play as the Tigers tied it at 6-6. Junior Chad Schroeder would then fly out to right field, scoring Basinger (2-for-4) to go up by one 7-6.

With two gone, the Tigers would then rally to put three more runs on the board. Shortstop Devin Goodwin (3-for-4) tripled to center to score Washington from second. Pettus (2-for-4) then doubled to left scoring Goodwin. Pitcher William Meador would then single to move Pettus to third where Butler would drive him in on a single to center.

And though Kerby, the man who started it all, would then single to load the bases, the Tigers would leave three stranded when Basinger grounded out to short. With a comfortable four run lead, the championship looked to belong to the Tigers, who stood but six outs away from the win.

But in the bottom the sixth the state championship cloud would darken and thunder. The Tigers would give up five runs on four hits and allow the Eagles to tie it at 10-10. Down, but surely not out, the Tigers would have another chance in the seventh. But the effects of the sixth would make a lasting impression on the Tigers, as they go down in order collecting no runs on no hits.

The Eagles would then score the winning run in the seventh to end it.