By Chris Yow
SANTA FE — Shonda Rhimes couldn’t have written a better script.
With the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Mt. Pleasant’s Ben Newland walked Macon Adkison to load the bases for homestanding Santa Fe, but proceeded to get a strikeout and a looping line drive to second base to earn a save in a 10-9 win on Tuesday.
Santa Fe failed to get the timely hit in order to preserve a series split with Mt. Pleasant, leaving the bases loaded in each of the seventh and eighth innings. The Tigers earned the come-from-behind win and the only lead it held in the game was in the eighth.
“We got down big, but I told my kids not to give up on me and I wasn’t going to give up on them,” first-year coach Kennedy Mathis said. “I’m so proud of the fight and heart of this team.”
Coupled with the inability to garner a base hit with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game, Santa Fe committed five errors in the game
“You don’t deserve to win if you commit five errors,” Wildcats’ manager Rip Baxter said. “We had every opportunity to win this game and we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Baxter’s team jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the second inning, culminating with a bases-clearing triple from starting pitcher Carter Seltz.
“We battled one at-bat at a time,” Mathis said. “They continued to put pressure on us, but our kids answered every time.”
Mt. Pleasant got three of those runs back in the top of the third and tied the game in the fourth at six. Brady Clark doubled, scoring a run to start the rally and Ryan Clark singled to score a run as well. The aggressive baserunning of the Tigers paid off, as Newland scored from third base during a pickoff attempt at second base to tied the game.
“That’s our game. We want to be aggressive and put pressure on our opponent,” Mathis said. “We want to make them throw the ball any time we can.”
Brady Clark finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBIs from the nine-hole.
“He’s a freshman, and I’ve been looking for someone I can go to in the nine-hole. He started swinging the bat well a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve stuck with him there,” Mathis said. “He keeps doing his job and we will keep sticking with him.”
As quickly as Mt. Pleasant tied the game, Santa Fe took control right back. Seltz drew a bases-loaded walk and Peyton Wilhelm was hit by a pitch to bring in a run. Seltz scored on a passed ball, which put the Wildcats up 9-6 by the end of the inning.
Despite the rough patch, Mathis held confidence in pitcher Hayden Holt, who’d relieved starting pitcher Ryan Clark in the second inning. Holt earned the win, though he was forced to give the ball up due to his pitch count in the eighth.
“Hayden was great tonight. I told him when I had to take him out that I thought he did a fantastic job, and to go play a great shortstop,” Mathis said. “That’s what he did.”
Baxter now must relay to his team the importance of next week’s series with Richland — one his team must sweep in order to earn their way into the top two of District 10-A.
“I told my guys that the beauty of baseball is tomorrow is another day,” he said. “But we have to wake up and get ready to play because we have to win.”
Preparing his team’s mindset following a sweep can be a difficult task, but despite a less-than-ideal start from Seltz on the bump, Baxter knows he can count on his senior to bounce back.
“Carter has played a lot of baseball, and he knows that good players don’t think about their last play whether it was good or bad,” Baxter said. “He will be ready to go next time out, and we are going to need him to be ready.”
Colton Steward threw four innings of relief, giving up two runs — none earned — on one hit and striking out seven. The Wildcat duo of Seltz and Steward combined for 15 strikeouts in the game, but it was Holt who took home the win.
He went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and striking out six.
Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports