CALERA – As you might expect in a battle of two of the hottest teams in the Bryan County area, Friday’s showdown between Rock Creek and host Calera came right down to the final inning.
The Bulldogs erased a four-run deficit to rally for a 6-4 victory over the Mustangs in a state playoff-type preview between two squads that entered the action ranked in the Top 10 of their respective classifications. Calera improved to 19-3 on the season while Rock Creek slipped to 15-5.
“They (Rock Creek) are a good baseball team,” said Calera’s head coach Ricky Teafatiller. “They came out today and got after us. We made a few errors in the first inning, but we did have base runners the whole game and couldn’t get that key hit. And then finally in that one inning we got hits. I always say hitting is contagious.”
Bulldog starting pitcher Chase Hamilton got the win as he pitched six and one-third innings and Shawn Harper closed out the game for the save. Josh Eiler got the stating the duties on the mound for Rock Creek and went six-plus innings as well before Davis Rogers came in for relief.
The Mustangs, who entered the contest riding a 10-game winning streak, jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Eiler plated the first run on an error. Then with the bases loaded, Garrett Schafer was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Luke Jestis followed with a rope single for a RBI before Hamilton got out of the inning with a strike out.
“Chase did a good job pitching today,” said Teafatiller. “He’s a ground ball pitcher and we’ve got to play defense behind him and didn’t do a very good job of that in the first inning. And Rock Creek is too good of a ball team to spot them three runs.”
Good defense by both teams kept the score the same until the top of the sixth inning when Rock Creek added another tally.
Austin Green got on base with a single and made his way to third base on consecutive steals. Then Christian McGowan hit a sacrifice fly deep into the outfield to drive in the run for a comfortable 4-0 cushion.
Comfortable until the bottom of the frame when Calera grabbed the momentum and rallied with two outs to score six unanswered runs.
“The first five and two-thirds we just cruised,” said Rock Creek head coach Kyle Wingfield. “Josh didn’t have his best stuff today and his strikeout numbers were down. But we were making plays on defense, but in the sixth with two outs we made a couple of errors and it just came apart.”
Calera started the sixth inning when Luke Weddle drew a leadoff walk. Then with two outs, Chase Hamilton helped his own cause with a single that drove in a run. Cooper Hamilton added a deep fly ball that was dropped for an error.
James Vazquez hit a fast grounder into the infield, but the throw to second base went wide and another run scored. Harper drew a walk to load the bases and Brayden Langley tied up the game at 4 with a hard hit ball for a two-run single. Zack Maynard put the finishing touches on the rally when he hammered a double for two RBI.
Rock Creek threatened in the seventh inning, getting two runners on base, but couldn’t get them home as Calera protected its home field with the win.
Playoffs are right around the corner for both teams as Rock Creek will host Caddo and Achille for district play starting Thursday. Calera is slated to meet Colbert a week later.