by Rob Grubbs
As the baseball regular season starts to wind down, the standings in Region 3-AAAAA are coming into focus. The Fayette County Tigers are fighting to return to the playoffs and had an opportunity to take a huge step to their goal with a series win against the McIntosh Chiefs. The Tigers started fast in the final game of the series at McIntosh on Friday and scored early, but the Chiefs battled back and pulled out a tough 7-5 win to sweep the series and keep pace with the second-place Whitewater Wildcats.
The Tiger lineup treated the top of the first inning as an extension of batting practice. Tucker Dorrity, Zach Scott, Davis Mokry, and Ahmad Ali started the game with base hits and a 1-0 lead. McIntosh starting pitcher Connor Koscevic got the next two batters to strikeout and was almost got out of the inning with minimal damage, but Kylin Stonewall crushed a double that scored two more, and the Tigers were up 3-0 before the Chiefs ever picked up their bats.
The Chiefs responded by scoring two in the bottom of the first, Dane Kinamon and Ethan Ange each notching singles. After Kinamon scored on a perfectly executed double steal, Jack Brown drove in another run to close out the inning down 3-2.
The game had the feel of an offensive shootout, and the Tigers kept things moving when they answered with another run in the top of the second on a single by Scott driving in Tyler Patrick, who had doubled to start the inning. Fortunately for the Chiefs, right fielder Burton Hahn made a great throw as he hit his cutoff man and got the lead runner out at second to save a run.
McIntosh took advantage and scored four runs in the bottom of the second to get their first lead of the game. Kinamon had a bases-loaded single to score two, and Jack Bukowski added a sacrifice fly, and the Tigers seemed to be on the ropes down 6-4.
Showing the mettle of a team fighting for a playoff spot, Fayette County pulled within one when they scored on a double steal of their own after hits by Drew Hodges and Brandon Burns.
Mitch Maxwell answered immediately for the Chiefs with a leadoff triple and scored on a Ryan Sanders single, and the score was 7-5 after three with each team scoring in every inning.
From that point pitching and defense took over. Tiger starter Drew Hodges and Chief reliever Jeffery Homan shut down the offenses that were prolific early but quiet late. The Tigers had an excellent defensive play in the bottom of the fourth with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. A tricky ground ball to third met Ali’s glove and the runner at the same time for the second out, and Ali threw across the diamond for a web-gem double play that kept the Tigers in the game.
Chiefs head coach David Munoz brought in closer Dakota Rowan, who got the last six outs in dominant fashion for the sweep.
The previous day, the Chiefs dominated the Tigers in a 13-1 win at Fayette County’s field. Ange drilled a home run in the top of the first to propel the McIntosh offense who was also helped by several Tiger defensive miscues. Bukowksi and Ashton Quijano-Angier also had RBIs to fuel the offense, while freshman starting pitcher Brooke Berry pitched a complete game six-hitter for the win.
For the Chiefs, the sweep was a great answer to losing two games to state-ranked Veterans High the previous weekend.
“We learned that we can compete (against Veterans),” said Munoz. “We were banged up in that series. We knew they were solid, which is why we put them on the schedule, but we hope to see them again down the road. Our young guys competed, and I am proud of that.”
After spring break, the Tigers have two huge series left, one against Starr’s Mill and another against Griffin. The Chiefs are tied for second, but are down to Whitewater in the tiebreaker. They have two series left as well and will be scoreboard watching to see if the Wildcats lose one, so they can take the second spot and get a first round home playoff game.
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