Princeton – Errors and free passes are a recipe for disaster. Both plagued Princeton Saturday afternoon.
Shady Spring capitalized on five free passes in the sixth inning, scoring seven runs in the frame to rally from a 5-4 deficit and beat Princeton 11-5 at Hunnicutt Field.
Miscues were rampant on both sides early.
For Shady it started in the second inning when Parker Redden reached on a single and advanced to second on a throwing error from second base. A grounder to third after the following at-bat got lodged between the legs of the fielder but Redden was caught in a rundown between second and third after a late jump, returning the favor. Princeton’s second error was erased when Mason Palmeeter, who reached on the grounder to third, was picked off. The base running errors proved costly as Evan Belcher followed them with a single that would’ve plated a run.
“You’ve got to give credit to Princeton for making it a good game,” Shady head coach Jordan Meadows said. “But early on we were making a lot of mistakes and it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get through it and I told them we should be able to hit and run. This is a game we’ve got to win. It’s the little things that make the difference.”
The host Tigers were able to capitalize where the visitors weren’t.
A one-out error at shortstop allowed Justin Young to reach second and he later scored with two outs on an infield single from Chase Hancock.
That was enough to motivate Shady which loaded the bases in the top of the third with one out.
A sac fly from Adam Richmond knotted the game and Redden’s second single in as many innings scored two more, swinging the pendulum in Shady’s favor. The visiting Tigers tacked on another run courtesy of two more Princeton errors in the top of the fourth, building the momentum.
It didn’t stay there long.
Spencer Turner led the the bottom of the fourth off with a double and two straight singles from Justin Young and Brock Halsey made it a 4-2 game. Shady starting pitcher David Young nearly limited the damage, getting a strikeout and a flyout, but a hit batsmen loaded the bases for Princeton catcher Grant Cochran who lined a single over the head of the second baseman, tying the game at four.
Colton Tate came in for Shady to get the last out but Justin Young’s bat stayed hot as he notched his third straight hit of the game in the bottom of the fifth to break the stalemate.
“We’ve had to be a scrappy team all year,” Princeton head coach Austin Southcott said. “We’ve had to battle for runs. At the end of the day we’re playing our best baseball of the year right now and that’s what you want going into the postseason. We wanted to keep battling and try to win every inning.”
Down 5-4 in the top of the sixth, Shady made a surge that put the game away.
Outfielder Tyler Mackey, who had been quarantining last week, led the inning off with a double, scoring on a one-out single from Thatcher Poteat. That was enough to chase Princeton starter Jordan Bailey and start a spiral. Young came out of centerfield to take the mound and got the second out of the frame, but the following five batters all reached base – three on walks and two as hit batsmen.
“I told the guys you get three strikes for a reason,” Meadows said. “I think early on we were swinging at stuff we shouldn’t have swung at. We had guys on base and we were kind of lunging at stuff, but we battled at the plate and finished the way I wanted us to.”
That brought Mackey up for the second time in the inning and he capitalized hitting a bloop-double into right field, his second of the frame, clearing the bases for the visitng Tigers’ final three runs of a seven-run inning.
“He just got out of quarantine right before the Bluefield game,” Meadows said. “The past two games he’s come up huge for us. He made a game-saving catch against Bluefield and he comes out here to hit two doubles to help us win the game.”
Princeton threatened to score in the bottom of the inning with a two-out single followed by a walk but a grounder to third ended the threat. The hosts were unable to make any noise the rest of the way as Shady escaped Mercer County with its 14th win of the year.
“At the end of the day we’re still playing our best baseball of the year right now,” Southcott said. “That’s all you can ask for moving into the postseason. It’s a tough loss to a good team that’s hot right now – they’ve won some games here recently against some good teams. I’m not happy with the loss, but happy with where we’re at as a team.”
Shady improves to 14-6 and will travel to Nicholas County on Monday. Princeton drops to 3-17 and will host Beckley on Monday.
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SS: 003 107 0 – 11 9 1
P: 010 310 0 – 5 12 5
Pitching and catching – SS: David Young (3.2 innings), Colton Tate (1.1), Thatcher Poteat (2) and Parker Redden; P: Jordan Bailey (5.1), Justin Young (0.1), Brock Halsey (1.1) and Grant Cochran. WP: Colton Tate, LP: Bailey. Hitting – SS: Thatcher Poteat 2-5 (RBI), Alex Johnston 1-4, Adam Richmond 0-2 (RBI), Parker Redden 3-3 (2B, 3 RBI), Evan Belcher 1-3 (RBI), Tyler Mackey 2-4 (2 2B, 3 RBI); P: Jordan Bailey 1-4, Grant Cochran 1-3 (2 RBI), Ian Fleming 3-4, Noah Basham 1-3, Spencer Turner 1-4 (2B), Justin Young 3-4 (RBI), Brock Halsey 1-3 (RBI), Chase Hancock 1-3 (RBI).