Trojans win round two!By JOSHUA SEABROOK,
BY JOSHUA SEABROOK
The "Battle of the Trojans" evened up at one game a piece in the best of three series to determine the South State champion, after Magee responded from a disappointing 6-3 loss in Foxworth last Friday. The atmosphere was palpable, as both teams were well represented in the sea of red and white for the second stanza of the "Battle of the Trojans." Tabbed with the starting duties for Magee was senior Timon Kennedy. On the away side, West Marion senior Brett Jenkins was saddled with the task of keeping the Magee bats quiet.
Early on, West Marion flexed their muscles with a quick strike to get out to an early lead. Josh Boone took the first pitch of the ballgame to left field for a leadoff single. He quickly moved into scoring position after stealing second on Kennedy's 1-1 offering to Jayden Duncan. Duncan moved Patterson to third with a sac-bunt to set the table for Clay Blocker. After getting to a 1-1 count on Blocker, Kennedy was squeezed by the home plate umpire on a questionable ball call. There is a big difference in the pitch you would call for a 2-1 count as to the pitch you would call for a 1-2 count. With a 1-2 count, pitchers can bounce a pitch or waste one before having to come back into the zone. However, with a 2-1 count, you have less margin for error and have to get closer to the heart of the plate than you would like and typically with a fastball. Blocker was sitting dead read on the 2-1 delivery and got the fastball he was looking for as the ball leaked a little to far over the plate, allowing Blocker to square up a no-doubt 2-run blast that he deposited into the trees behind the left field fence. Kennedy managed to get ahead 1-2 on Dalton Raynes, but Raynes mustered a two strike base hit to keep the pressure on Magee early. After Jenkins grounded into a fielder's choice to Brennon McNair, who flipped onto Adam May covering second for the force, but the turn was a little late as Jenkins beat out the back end of the double play to keep the inning alive. Mason Parrett came on as the courtesy runner for Jenkins and promptly stole second on Kennedy's 1-1 offering to Shelby Terrell. Kennedy bowed his neck to finish off Terrell to end the inning and limit the damage to two. In the home half of the first, the Magee offense was having trouble getting out of the starting gates, as Jenkins worked around a two out single by Kennedy by getting McNair to fly out to right to hold the West Marion lead at 2-0.
After a stormy first inning, Magee was in need of a bounce back inning by Kennedy to keep them within striking distance. The senior did just that, as Kennedy responded to the rocky first inning with a three-up-three-down second to swing a little momentum towards the Magee side. In the bottom of the second, Seth Russell got things started with a base hit up the middle to give Magee a lead off base runner. Cayden Bridges picked the right night to have the game of his life. Bridges got his 3-3 night started with a rope to the fence in right-center to put men on second and third with no outs. May followed up with a two-run single to plate Russell and Bridges and tie the game up at two. Landon Hayes provided a little situational hitting with a sac-fly to right that allowed May to scoot to third. The Magee designated hitter, Josh Sanders, popped out to short as Jenkins looked as if he could keep the game tied after registering the second out of the inning. Jenkins' first pitch to Zack Teater found Teater's hip and sent the left-handed hitting right fielder to first to put men at the corners with two out. After striking the big blow in the first inning at the plate, Blocker gifted Magee a free run behind it, as he attempted to throw behind May at third but the throw was too high for Raynes and squirted into the outfield to allow May to scurry home to give Magee a 3-2 lead. Jenkins managed to refocus and sit Chandler Pittman down on strikes, but not before surrendering the lead.
The game quickly turned into a see-saw affair. After Magee responded by taking the lead, West Marion pieced together a two run top of the third to take it right back. The inning started with Boone reaching base on a routine grounder to Russell at third that led to a high throw to Hayes covering at first, forcing Hayes to jump to retrieve the throw and not get down to the base in time to get the speedy Boone. Duncan roped a double off the base of the left field wall to put runners on second and third for West Marion and Blocker striding to the plate. Blocker did not attempt to do too much and sent a fly ball deep enough to allow Boone to score to tie the score at three. Raynes followed up with a hard grounder past the outstretched glove of Russell at third to score Duncan to regain the lead for West Marion at 4-3 with one out. Jenkins sent what would typically be a routine fly out to the normally sure handed Teater in right. As Teater was closing his glove, the wet outfield grass gave way and Teater slipped to the ground as the ball bounced out of his glove. Teater attempted to recover by firing a throw to McNair at second, but heads up baserunning by Raynes who went halfway and froze until he saw the ball hit the ground and slid safely into second to give West Marion men on first and second with only one out. Kennedy managed to regain his composure and pitch his way out of danger by getting Terrell to ground into a fielder's choice to McNair who stepped on second before nearly getting Terrell and Brian Blakney to ground out to Hayes who took it unassisted to first to hold the deficit to one. In the bottom of the second, the see-saw tipped back towards Magee's side once again. After a ground out to short by Kennedy, McNair hit into the reverse shift for a double. Typically with a shift, defenses are arranged to the pull side of the opposing batter, however the shift implemented by West Marion was the opposite as their fielders were shaded towards the opposite way for the Magee batters. This was clearly in response to some heavy scouting done by the West Marion coaching staff who were aware the majority of Magee's batters like to stay up the middle and go the opposite way. By pitching on the outside corner and shifting away, Jenkins hoped he could funnel balls into the shift, unfortunately for him there was a freeway sized gap in left-center and that is just where Russell sent the 2-1 pitch from Jenkins for an RBI double to tie the game at four. Refusing to go against their scouting report, West Marion continued to deploy the oppo-shift as Bridges came to the plate. Bridges, like Russell, welcomed the large hole in left-center with a double of his own to score Russell and give Magee a 5-4 lead and chase Jenkins from the mound. Duncan replaced Jenkins on the hill and quickly got May to strike out looking for the second out of the inning. Bridges broke one of baseballs cardinal rules of not making the first or third out at third, as he was caught stealing by Blocker in the middle of Hayes at bat forcing Hayes to lead off the next inning.
After some turbulence early on, Kennedy found a groove as the righty settled in and retired the West Marion side in order. In the bottom of the forth, Magee blew the game wide open with an offensive outburst in the frame that ended with six runs in the fourth alone. After Hayes struck out looking on a borderline pitch that had not been being called Magee's way all night, Sanders got the rally going with a hustle base hit on a grounder to Boone at short and beating out the throw to give Magee a one out base runner. Teater followed with a hard grounder off Duncan's foot that ricocheted towards third to give Magee back-to-back infield singles. Duncan, who was understandably shook after being hit on the foot, pegged Pittman with the first pitch following the comebacker to load the bases. Kennedy followed with a first pitch single on a grounder to center that scored both Teater and Sanders and moved Pittman to third. That ended the night for Duncan on the mound as the revolving door of West Marion pitchers produced its third pitcher of the game Raynes was brought in to try to get out of a sticky situation. McNair rudely greeted Raynes with a single on a blooper to center on the second pitch thrown by the righty to score Pittman and move Caleb Brown, who was running for Kennedy, to second. Brown moved to third on a wild pitch by Raynes early in Russell's at bat, before scoring on a sac-fly by Russell to run the lead to 9-4. Raynes made matters worse as he hit Bridges to put men on first and second. After a walk to May, Hayes sent a 2-RBI single to left that scored Bridges and McNair to bust the game wide open as Magee grabbed an 11-4 lead before Sanders flew out to end the inning.
As the game appeared to be slipping away, West Marion desperately tried to force things early in the fifth. Duncan lead off with a weak pop out in foul territory to Hayes, followed by a strike out by Blocker who was froze by the payoff pitch by Kennedy to give Magee two quick outs. Raynes attempted to spark a rally as he launched a double to left, followed by a walk to Jenkins to give West Marion men on first and second with two outs. Kennedy buckled down and finished the inning without a run by getting Terrell to ground out to May who bobbled the ball but recovered in time to get the ball onto Hayes for the third out. In the bottom of the fifth, Magee looked to close out the game early needing just three runs to 10-run rule West Marion. The fourth pitcher of the night for West Marion came to the mound in the form of Noel Parrett. Parrett worked a scoreless fifth to keep the score at 11-4.
Kennedy continued to be dominant after a rough start to the game as he retired the side in order in the top of the sixth and give Magee another chance to plate three to end the game early. Parrett started the home half of the sixth by hitting McNair to give Magee yet another leadoff base runner. Russell followed up with a single to move McNair to second and end the night for Parrett on the mound as he was replaced by Blakney for the fifth West Marion pitcher of the night. Bridges quickly greeted him with a hard grounder to center that got under the glove of Matthew Morgan to score both McNair and Russell and allow Bridges to motor all the way to third. Knowing that the winning run was at third, West Marion drew in the infield to attempt to cut down Bridges at home should he attempt to score on a grounder in the infield. May grounded to Raynes who looked Bridges back to the bag at third before firing across to Jenkins who dugout the low throw for out number one. The drawn in infield came back to bite West Marion as Hayes sent a grounder that would have been likely a routine play for Raynes at third, into the outfield grass for a walk-off single to clinch the 10-run rule victory for Magee and even the series at a game apiece with the pivotal game three in Foxworth to determine the South's champ and who will move on to Trustmark Park for the 3A title series.