Baseball: Decatur’s season ends in extra-inning loss

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 4, 2017
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Out at Home

OUT AT HOME – Pleasant Grove catcher Keaton Russo tags out Decatur’s Derek Potts in the eighth inning of game two of the 4A Region II final series Thursday. Pleasant Grove won the game 1-0 and the series 2-0. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For seven innings, Decatur starting pitcher Bryce Elder shut down a team that had scored 10 runs a day earlier.

In fact, Pleasant Grove hadn’t gotten a single hit off Elder until a bunt hit in the fifth inning.

But the Hawks’ starting pitcher, Tyler Jeans, was pitching a gem of a game of his own, and when the game became a battle of bullpens in extra innings, Pleasant Grove was able to scratch out a run to earn a 1-0 eight-inning victory Thursday at Mike Carter Field in Tyler. Pleasant Grove swept the regional final series to earn a return trip to the state tournament.

Decatur coach Brian Tickell said he was proud of the effort by his team and his starting pitcher.

“Bryce Elder is a stud,” he said. “I think the first hit he gave up was in the fifth inning, a drag bunt. If we didn’t have this pitch count rule, then he could have gone further. But it’s the same thing with their guy.”

In his seven innings of work, Elder struck out seven while giving up only two hits and three walks.

Jeans had a similar line, striking out six in 6 1/3 innings while giving up only three hits and four walks.

With Elder at his pitch count limit, Wilson Hicks came on in the eighth to try to keep the game scoreless, but he gave up an infield hit to the Hawks’ leadoff batter, Cade Thompson. Eagle third baseman Eddie Fernandez made a diving stop on the play to keep the ball from getting down the left field line for extra bases.

After a bunt and a wild pitch moved the runner to third, a bloop hit to left by Heath Ferguson drove in the game’s only run.

Derek Potts entered the game to get the final two outs of the inning.

The Eagles had a chance in their half of the eighth when Potts led off with a single to left center off relief pitcher Nick Voyles. A wild pitch moved Potts into scoring position, and he moved to third on a groundout.

Jaxon Terrell then hit a chopper to shortstop, and Potts tried to score but was thrown out at home plate for the second out of the inning.

After an infield error put runners at second and third for the Eagles, Voyles was able to get Dayne Chapman to ground out to first for the final out.

Decatur looked like they might take an early lead in the game when they loaded the bases with one out on a base hit and a pair of walks off Jeans in the second inning, but the Hawks pitcher was able to escape the jam without giving up any runs.

“We just couldn’t get guys in when we had runners in scoring position,” Tickell said. “But you’ve got to give them credit. That’s why they go to the state tournament nearly every year. They compete. They never gave in to Bryce.”

Elder was able to work out of a bit of trouble in the sixth inning. After the first two Hawks reached on an infield hit and a walk, Elder was able to retire Caleb Bolden on a fly ball to center field followed by a strikeout of Heath Ferguson. After a walk to load the bases, Elder was able to get Keaton Russo to ground out to shortstop to keep the game scoreless.

Decatur recorded one of its most successful seasons in the program’s history, but Tickell said it’s more than just the number of wins.

“You can’t necessarily mark a season’s success by wins. The competing, being a great teammate, I think these kids proved the wins were just bonuses. They are great teammates. They are going to be best friends for all their life. They are going to be able to lean on each other when times are tough and call on each other in times of success throughout the rest of their lives, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Bunt Hit Attempt

BUNT HIT ATTEMPT – Beau Bedford tries to bunt for a hit to lead off the fourth inning of Thursday’s game two. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Tough Loss

TOUGH LOSS – Tyler Ticknor and the Eagles were left to reflect on a successful season after Thursday’s game two loss. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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