Gallery by Tina Laney
Shady Spring – With a spot in the sectional title game and all-state pitcher Cam Manns on the mound, Shady Spring appeared poised to advance and defend its crown.
The Tigers still might move on, but doing so becomes a lot more difficult now.
Nicholas County shifted its strategy at Shady, utilizing small ball and capitalizing on errors and miscues to steal a 4-2 decision against the Tigers in Shady Wednesday.
With the win Nicholas County advances to Friday’s sectional title game where it will face the winner of Thursday’s elimination matchup between Shady and Independence.
With 10 of his first 12 batters striking out against Manns, Nicholas County head coach D.J. Martin elected to take a different approach in an effort to get the ball in play. Various bunt calls did the trick forcing Shady to field the ball and ultimately into mistakes.
“Anytime Cam’s on the mound just getting it in play is a huge battle itself,” Martin said. “Our guys came through at the right times. We had a beautiful squeeze play to tie it up and when we had hits they were timely today. That was the biggest difference because we didn’t leave our guys stranded. It was a great job by our guys against great pitching, coming through there.”
Executing with runners on base ultimately proved to be the difference.
Failure to provide timely hits stung the Tigers early before it was evident it would matter.
After they placed their first two on base in the bottom of the second inning and advanced them into scoring position with a bunt, Nicholas County pitcher Cole Brown worked out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to nullify the miscues.
Shady eventually drew first blood in the fourth when Parker Brown was hit by a pitch to leadoff and Colten Tate and and Brian Seabolt worked free passes to load the bases. A strikeout and a forceout at the plate followed, setting the stage for disappointment before No. 9 hitter Tyler Reed lined a single into center that scored Tate. A bobble on the play allowed Seabolt to follow him home, giving Shady a 2-0 advantage.
It was all downhill for the hosts afterwards.
An error at second allowed the leadoff man to reach for Nichols in the top of the fifth and a throwing error on the very next at bat skipped down the first base line, allowing Nicholas to score its first run.
The miscues carried into the decisive sixth inning when Alex Pritt led off sight a single, advanced into scoring position when Manns didn’t beat the runner to first and waltzed to third after Ira Mylott was hit. Manns struck out the next batter but a suicide squeeze from Braden Brown scored the tying run. Levi Hellems then provided the tiebreaker with a single to score Cole Brown.
Meanwhile the Tigers never found their groove at the plate. They stranded a pair in the fifth inning and produced just one base runner in the final two frames.
Nicholas tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh courtesy of an RBI double form Cole Brown.
“Lack of execution and too many strikeouts in situations like that,” Shady head coach Jordan Meadows said. “Usually we perform or at least put it in play and make something happen. Cole pitched a good game. Credit to him and Nicholas County because they made stuff happen when we made mistakes.”
Brown was efficient for the Grizzlies in the 5.1 innings he threw before reaching his limit. He scattered three hits and struck out nine.
“It was a great pitching performance from our guys and theirs,” Martin said. “It was solid all night. Two great baseball games and all four pitchers that pitched tonight were solid which you can tell by the score and hits up there. But Cole was spot on and worked himself out of some trouble there early. Definitely had his stuff working tonight.”
Manns held up his end of the bargain for Shady, going 6.1 innings and fanning 14, allowing just one earned run in the first sectional loss of his career.
“We knew they were going to be off balance with all the stuff that he throws,” Meadows said of Manns. “We made two errors on bunts and lack of execution on touching first base and stuff like that hurt us. We had silly mistakes and they two timely hits. Cam pitched well enough to win but our team didn’t help us out tonight.”
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