By Chris Yow
CHAPEL HILL — Grant Burleson wasn’t going to be denied the win at Forrest on Thursday.
The senior right-hander gave up his first two runs of the year as a pitcher in the bottom of sixth inning thanks to a pair of well-executed bunts and unfavorable hops of the baseball that took him out of a chance at the pitching win.
All he did was hit two extra-inning home runs, one in the 11th and another in the 12th, to give Summertown a 4-3 win.
“We think he’s a Mr. Baseball candidate,” Eagles’ coach Jason Burleson said. “He’s our leader, and he’s put up great numbers all season.”
No doubt the numbers back up his coach’s — and dad’s — assessment. The two home runs on Thursday were his 10th and 11th of the season, and he has north of 35 RBIs for the year. He has given up only the two earned runs on the season. He also struck out 14 Rockets in six innings’ work.
Weston Pigg put the Eagles on top early with a single before he was moved to second by a Lane Burleson bunt and to third on a wild pitch before a Grant Burleson sacrifice fly scored him. He scored again in the fifth when he doubled, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
“We don’t get to the extra innings without Weston early,” coach Burleson said. “Having that production from the nine-hole is nice, but he has to stay consistent and not miss the fastballs.”
Pigg struck out twice on full-count fastballs late in the game.
Trailing by two runs in the sixth, the Rockets turned to small ball. A pair of bunts put runners on first and second. Max Kirby drove in a run with a double and then Cannon Cervantes tied the game with a single.
“We called the bunt out, and we just didn’t do a good job of executing,” Jason Burnelson said. “Grant wouldn’t have given up those two runs if we would’ve played them right.”
From there, the two teams continued to duel from the mound, as Forrest hitters struck out 19 times in the game and Summertown went down on strikes 18 times.
Both teams had chances to put runs up in the extra frames, but defensive gems such as Skylar Trousdale’s leaping grab in the eighth with two outs and then again scooping up a hard-hit ball up the middle where he was able to touch second base to end the inning and help Gavin Burleson to live on from the mound.
“This is how these games go with our two teams, and it’s because we play very similar games,” Jason Burleson said. “Last year they came to our place and scored two in the seventh to win 4-3, and that’s why we play these games.”
Summertown will travel to Columbia Academy for a 6 p.m. contest Saturday.
Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports