Demopolis splits crucial double-header with Chilton County

Published 7:45 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

After blowing a major opportunity in the first game with a 13-3 loss, Demopolis (12-12, 3-1) rebounded quickly to down Chilton County 12-0 in the back end of a Thursday double-header that lasted a total of 10 innings.

Under the AHSAA format, the first game of the double-header acts as an area contest while the second is merely a tiebreaker. Head coach Ben Ramer and his team dropped Chilton 7-1 on the road Monday and would have placed themselves one win away from clinching the area with a victory over the visiting Tigers in the first game.

However, shoddy defense and offensive inconsistency spelled doom for a Demopolis team that appeared flat from the outset in game one.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve learned how to fight a little bit,” Ramer, whose team had its four-game win streak snapped with the 10-run debacle. “We thought that is what we were getting going into the day. And our kids came out tight. Chilton County came in loose as a goose.”

the homestanding Tigers spotted Chilton three runs in the first and appeared to settle in before allowing two more in the third and three in the fourth. Down 8-0, Demopolis clawed its way back into the game in the bottom of the fourth.

Ben Pettus and Larry Dunn led off with back-to-back singles before Hunter Wells reached on an error by the Chilton center fielder that loaded the bases. Sophomore Daniel Sturdivant, who had checked in to pitch in the top half of the inning, stroked an opposite field single that scored Pettus. Two batters later, the Tigers appeared poised to waste the bases-loaded, two-out opportunity when Logan Holley stepped to the plate with two away. Holley hit a grounder that resulted in a miscommunication and error by the CCHS middle infield, allowing two runs to score. After cutting the deficit to 8-3, Demopolis gave all the ground it had gained back in the fifth when it allowed Chilton to score five runs and put the game away.

The Tigers allowed 12 hits and committed six errors in the first game of the evening.

“We didn’t rant and rave in between games,” Ramer said.

Instead, the DHS coaching staff spoke with the team briefly and then left the clubhouse, allowing the Tigers to talk things out amongst themselves. According to Pettus, who would return to be the linchpin of Demopolis’ game two win, the Tigers felt like they had little to lose given their perception that the entire season has been marked by low expectations from those outside of the program. With that, Pettus said he and his teammates relaxed before retaking the field.

The change in the approach showed as Demopolis followed up Pettus’ stellar first inning pitching performance by swinging the bats with purpose. Pettus and Dunn each came up with singles in a scoreless first inning before the Tigers erupted in the second frame. Demopolis sent 17 batters to the plate in the second, using six hits and seven Chilton errors to score 12 runs.

“The second innings was perfect for us to score some runs and basically put them out of the game,” Ramer said of an inning that contained the largest single-inning run output Demopolis has had since his arrival nearly three seasons ago. “I don’t know if we’ve done it since I’ve been here. That completely changed the whole dynamic of the game for both sides.”

That second inning saw the first three DHS batters reach on errors before Kole Thrasher hit a sacrifice fly to plate Logan Holley and give Demopolis a 1-0 lead. The rest of the damage all came with two outs. Jacob Roemen hit an RBI single and Dunn brought in a score on a walk before senior Hunter Wells stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Wells picked out his pitch and just missed a grand slam to deep right center, legging out a three-RBI triple to put Demopolis in front 6-0. Holley then painted the first base line with a ball that caromed into the right field corner, giving him an RBI triple.

“We had a bases-loaded situation with Hunter and they had just made a pitching change. He did a great job of letting that pitch get deep and drove it,” Ramer said. “Logan comes up and gets a triple on the next hit.”

Two more errors allowed Thrasher to get an RBI single before a dropped third strike gave Pettus the chance to drive in two more with a single of his own.

The offensive burst was more than enough for Pettus, who tossed five innings of three-hit baseball while allowing four walks and striking out two. The outing was more than the Tigers expected from Pettus, who made his return to the mound after missing a few weeks with an arm injury.

“I was (nervous) because (Wednesday) I was throwing and it was real tight,” Pettus said of the arm. “I iced it this morning and prayed and it felt good enough that I could give coach an inning or two.”

“We were hoping for a couple (innings),” Ramer said of his decision to put Pettus on the mound. “We got started off slow in the first one and it got us in that frame of mind. We weren’t thinking he would be able to go much at all because he has been shut down for a few weeks.”

Despite the injury, Pettus was able to keep the ball down in the zone early, leading to an efficient performance that saw him use only 36 pitches through the first three innings.

“It was a huge performance,” assistant coach James Moody said. “We needed somebody to go out there and throw strikes and give us a chance to score some runs and get a win. We need a (No. 2 starting pitcher) to step in there and that is as good of a performance as we’ve had in a while.”

The win gives Demopolis the advantage should a tie-break situation arise with Chilton County. As is, Demopolis needs to beat Selma Tuesday and Friday of next week in order to clinch the area and host a first-round playoff series.

“We have not locked it up,” Ramer said of the area. “The game we won (Thursday night) was not an area ball game. We’re 3-1 in the area and Chilton is 3-1 in the area. We have to win those two ball games (against Selma) next week if we want to win the area.”