Gallery by Tina Laney
Coal City – Needing a win to close out Independence and advance to the Region 3 championships Shady Spring’s baseball team couldn’t have asked for a better start. But with runners in scoring position in the first inning the Tigers came up empty.
That was the tale of their evening as they stranded nine base runners, falling to the Patriots 10-0 in five innings Friday in Coal City.
The Indy victory forces a winner-take-all championship game to be held at Independence at noon on Saturday, weather permitting.
Chasing runs all evening, each opportunity lost drove the stake that much deeper for the visitors from the other side of Sullivan Road.
“We had first and second in the second inning down 3-0 and we try to execute a bunt and didn’t make it happen,” Shady head coach Jordan Meadows said. “We had three strikeouts after that and they’re a good team. (Independence pitcher Tanner Sipes) shut us down two years in a row. We live to see tomorrow though.”
Independence rarely fumbled its opportunities in response.
Indy catcher Atticus Goodson, who trotted down to first three times on the strength of a walk and two pitches that hit him, took a free pass to open the bottom of the first, stealing second and scoring when Elijah Farrington followed with an RBI single.
A double from Michael McKinney put two in scoring position for Clay Basham who kicked off a 3-for-3 day with his first hit – a two-run single.
The onslaught continued in the second with eight straight Patriots reaching after the first out was recorded. It culminated in six runs and two Shady pitching changes. The crushing blow came with the bases loaded and Indy all-stater Michael McKinney at the plate.
The senior shortstop lined a bases-clearing triple into the gap in right field for a 6-0 lead. Andy Lester followed with a two-run single two batters later and Tanner Sipes with a one-run single immediately afterwards to account for the rest of the damage.
“I think that was probably the biggest difference between today and Wednesday is we were able to capitalize on our opportunities,” Indy head coach Scott Cuthbert said. “I thought they did a good job of being selective and taking team at-bats instead of me at-bats. We quit doing that sometimes. We’ve got a couple kids every once in awhile that want to try and hit a home run and it don’t work that way.”
Meanwhile the Tigers’ search for timely hits continuously came up empty. Tanner Sipes, who went the distance for the Patriots, worked out of every jam as he allowed seven base runners to reach through the first three frames but left unscathed each time.
“I don’t know if Tanner had his best stuff today but he got out of some jams,” Cuthbert said. “(Shady) helped us a couple times but when he had to he was able to make the pitches he needed to. We were hoping he wouldn’t have to throw that many pitches (104) in that short of a game but he was able to at least do what we tried to do. We needed to win the game but also wanted to limit how many pitchers we needed to use.”
“He mixes it up well,” Meadows said. “He’s got that great curveball and he mixes it up well on the outside corner. He mixes it up to where we’re thinking too much.”
The scoring halted long enough for Cuthbert to get his wish and limit how many pitchers he had to use. An RBI single from Basham scored Farrington in the fifth, ending the game, giving Sipes the complete-game win.
Now both teams will refocus for tomorrow’s early contest with the season on the line. Meadows and Co. will roll with senior Alex Johnston on the mound while Cuthbert will take the night to mull over who he’ll start with his options limited to McKinney and Basham.
Shady has seen Basham once this season, collecting a hit and drawing two walks against him in 1.1 innings when the two teams met on April 4.
Johnston has pitched 2.1 innings against the Patriots this season, yielding eight runs – three earned – and has walked six batters.
“I told them it’s done and over with,” Meadows said when asked how he refocuses his team. “We did the same thing to them last year and now we have the senior Alex on the mound. I assume we’ll see Basham but who knows? We had five or six runs today, just no runs but we’ve got to execute.”
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