When the Whitewater Wildcats needed a win most, they played their best game. Facing the deciding game in a best-of-three series, the Wildcats exploded for a 12-1 win to eliminate the Pike County Pirates Thursday night. That victory, following a 3-2 win and a 1-0 loss in the first two games on Wednesday, pushes Whitewater into the Elite Eight.
“We really came out and put the pressure on tonight and put the momentum on our side for good,” said coach Rusty Bennett.
The clinching win came as the Wildcat bats woke up after two quiet games against tough pitching, including Tristin English, one of the state’s top prospects who touched 94 MPH in game two.
“Offensively, numbers one through nine in the order, really did a great job tonight,” said Bennett. “We talked before the game about playing together and taking good approaches. They did absolutely that.”
While the offense was at its best in game three, the pitching was dynamic all series. Jake Lee, Ethan Gillis, and Colby Taylor combined to allow just four runs. Taylor was especially dynamic, earning the save in the opener before throwing five innings for the win the next day.
“Hats off to Colby Taylor. To throw 20 pitches to close game one then come out here and do what he did today, he did a heck of a job,” said Bennett. “Pitching-wise, the three that we threw were phenomenal. Against a team like Pike County, to be able to pitch like that and keep them down is really big.”
Wednesday’s doubleheader opener was a hint of the Wildcats’ resilience. Pike County pulled out in front 2-0 by the second inning, but the Cats kept plugging away.
The fifth inning was the big frame for the home team as they scored all the runs they would need. Jabari Richards led off with a single, then moved to third as JD Norred reached on an error. Avery Roth drove in Richards to get on the board, but a pair of outs followed. Tyler Burdette shook it off and blasted an opposite field double over the leftfielder’s head to score Norred and Roth and put his Cats ahead 3-2.
Jake Lee settled down after the rough start on the mound, shaking off the early deficit to shut down the Pirates for the next four innings. He finished allowing five hits and one earned run, walking three, and striking out five.
Colby Taylor came out of the pen in the seventh and pitched around a leadoff walk to earn the save and the game one win.
Game two saw the Wildcats come out on the wrong end of an exceptional 1-0 pitcher’s duel.
Pike County plated the game’s lone run in the third inning. The Pirates got a runner on with a bunt, then sent him around the bases on a RBI triple.
Whitewater had their chances to rally, loading the bases in the fifth inning, but they couldn’t seal the deal.
Ethan Gillis was still dominant in the loss, pitching a complete game and allowing just one run.
Game three was a different story as the Wildcat bats made contact early and often.
The bottom of the first saw three cross the plate. Tyler Doanes lofted a sacrifice fly to center, moving Burdette to third. A missed throw allowed him to get up and head home for the game’s opening run. Norred followed with a chopper over third to score Doanes and Brandon Bell.
Pike got on the board for one in the third, but Whitewater made sure to put the game out of reach in the bottom half. Miles Jones and Richards started it off with singles. Norred smoked a double to score Richards and courtesy runner Win Lindsey. Connor Nalley and Nick Weinstein each drove in one as the lead ballooned to six runs and forced the Pirates to go to their pen. Bell plated two more with a double, and Miles Jones singled home another. By the time the smoke had cleared, Whitewater held a commanding 10-1 lead after three innings.
The Cats added a little extra insurance in the fourth inning as Burdette scored on a sacrifice and Bell singled in run number 12.
Norred led the offense in game three with four RBI, followed by Bell with three.
Whitewater will open the Elite Eight at home on Tuesday at 5 p.m. with a doubleheader against North Hall.
For more photos from the series, click [btn type=”default or primary or success or info or warning or danger or link” link=”http://www.cdphotography23.com/Sports/High-School/Baseball/Baseball-2015″]here[/btn].