Surviving a close call

By Kevin Eckleberry

July 16, 2014

After winning their first three state-tournament games in blowout fashion, the Troup National 11-12-year-old all-stars found themselves locked in a thriller with Brookwood on Wednesday.

It was a back-and-forth game, and six innings wasn’t enough to determine a winner.

In extra innings, it was Troup National figuring out a way to finally put an end to the suspense.

After scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning, Troup National pitcher Wesley Marchman threw a scoreless bottom of the seventh to secure his team’s 9-8 victory.

That win put Troup National in today’s Dixie Youth Baseball state-championship game against Wrens, while Brookwood’s tournament came to a close.

Before Wednesday’s game, Troup National had not faced anything close to a competitive game.

It beat Augusta 15-4 on Saturday, Albany 10-0 on Sunday, and Manchester 11-1 on Tuesday.

It was a different story against a determined Brookwood team, though.

“They needed (a close game),” Troup coach Chad Marchman said. “They were getting a little too over-confident.”

After falling behind 4-1 against Brookwood, Troup National ripped off seven unanswered runs to take an 8-4 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.

Brookwood responded by putting four runs on the board in the fifth inning to deadlock the score at 8-8.

Neither team scored in the sixth inning, so it was on to extra innings.

Troup National got a leadoff infield single from Caleb McCurry in the seventh, and Will Flowers followed with a base hit.

Flowers got caught in a rundown after his hit, and while the defense was focused on him, McCurry took off for home, but he was thrown out, and the game was still tied.

Flowers, who made it to second on the play, advanced to third on a wild pitch.

With Will Alford at the plate, a pitch got away from the catcher, allowing Flowers to come home with the go-ahead run.

Brookwood’s pitcher got a strikeout to end the inning, but the damage was done.

In the bottom of the seventh, Marchman set Brookwood down in order to preserve the one-run win.

Troup National struck first in the game on an RBI single by Alford in the top of the first inning, but Brookwood answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning, with three of those runs coming on a home run.

Troup National erased that deficit with three runs in the top of the second.

Luke Purnell got things started with a leadoff home run to make it a 4-2 game.

After Luke Swann reached on an error, Josh Tidwell’s bunt single put two runners on.

Jacquez Smith brought in one run with a fielder’s choice, and Carson Garner’s RBI groundout tied the game.

Troup National reclaimed the lead in the top of the third, with McCurry coming through with his third home run of the tournament, a solo shot to give his team a 5-4 edge.

Brookwood threatened in the bottom of the third, but with a man on second and two outs, second baseman Cade Garner made a terrific diving catch to end the inning.

Troup National added to its lead in the fourth inning, with Marchman delivering his fourth home run of the tournament, this one of the solo variety to make it a 6-4 game.

Marchman entered the game in relief of Smith in the bottom of the fourth, and he had a one-two-three inning.

In the top of the fifth, Troup kept piling on the runs.

McCurry was hit by a pitch, and with two outs, Jake Cardwell’s two-run home run gave Troup an 8-4 lead.

Brookwood came to life in the bottom of the fifth, plating four runs to tie it, and the damage likely would have been worse if not for a defensive gem to end the inning.

With runners on first and third and one out, Troup turned a double play.

Cardwell, the shortstop, fielded a groundball, he flipped it to Garner at second, who rifled the ball to first for the inning-ending double play.

“That’s why you practice, because it’s liable to happen at any moment,” Marchman said of the double-play ball.

Troup National got a two-out hit from Marchman in the top of the sixth, but he was stranded on second.

Marchman, after the difficult fifth inning, threw a scoreless sixth to send it to a seventh inning.

Troup National manufactured its run, Brookwood was unable to answer, and that was that.