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Polk baseball takes tough loss against Madison 9-5

Published 5:35pm Monday, April 14, 2014

Polk County High School’s baseball team threw out runners at third and home; they pulled off a unique version of the “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” double play; their third baseman threw out a runner at first from his (the third baseman’s) back; they tried to keep Madison off balance by using six different pitchers; and they fought back to tie the game in the fifth inning.

In the end, though, a couple of fielding miscues, some solid hitting by the Patriots and continued ineffective at-bats by the Wolverines, helped the Madison escape with a 9-5 win in Columbus on Tuesday evening, April 8.

It was the fourth consecutive loss for a team (5-9 overall, and 3-4 in conference action) that is improving with experience but hasn’t put it all together consistently.

“We played defense spotty, hit spotty, and fielded spotty,” Polk coach Ty Stott said. “(But) We looked more like a Polk County team.”

With the Wolverines’ regular number one starter Daniel Painter out of action with back pain, “We don’t have a starter,” Stott said after the game.

His game plan against Madison was to use as many as six pitchers. If one proved particularly effective at retiring the Patriots during an inning, Stott would keep him on the mound longer.

J.D. Edwards, who has played well at three positions, got the start. Edwards retired the lead-off batter on a bouncer to short, but the next batter lined a single to left, took second on a throw, stole third and scored ahead of another single.

Edwards kept the Patriots from scoring again in the first.

Polk got that run back in the home first. With one away, Edwards lined a triple over the right fielder’s head, but had to hold the bag on a groundout.

Wes Brady followed with a line single off the shortstop’s glove, scoring Edwards. Morgan Groves followed with a bounder to short that the fielder bobbled, then literally booted away, putting Groves on first. However, Konner Scruggs’s liner was hit right to the second baseman, who speared it to retire Polk.

Scruggs took over on the mound in the top of the second. With one out and a Madison runner on first, the next batter grounded hard down the third-base line. Edwards, playing third, dropped to smother the ball, fell onto his back, and threw straight and strongly, to nail the runner at first. The next batter walked, but the following batter had the bad judgement to ground to Edwards, who tossed him out to preserve the 1-1 score.

Nathan Collins singled in the home second, but could not advance.

Edwards was back on the mound in the visitors’ third. He hit the first batter, who stole second. The next batter walked, after which, the runner at second stole third. However, when the runner on first got caught in a rundown, the Patriot on third tried to score.

Brady threw him out at home, with catcher Bryce Martin making a diving tag. That out grew in importance, as the next batter doubled in just one run. But Edwards plunked another batter, putting runners on first and second. Polk just missed turning a double play on a grounder to second on which the runner from first was rubbed out, but the relay to first a hair late.

Stott then put Brady on the mound. He surrendered an RBI single to left, plus a punch single, before retiring the side on a strikeout.

In the home third, Brady reached first on a bad throw from third on his hard grounder, but the Wolverines were unable to cross the plate.

In the top of the fourth, with Brady still on the mound, a walk and sacrifice bunt put a runner on second. That runner took third on a groundout, and scored easily on a long double to center, to make it 4-1 Madison.

Madison’s pitcher, Mitchell Garrett, who was steady, rather than spectacular, struck out the side to retire Polk in the fourth.

In the top of the fifth, Tyler Campbell, Polk’s fourth pitcher of the night, took the mound. Madison’s leadoff batter greeted Campbell with a fly to deep center that the sure-fielding Mark Mazilli was unable to run down.

Mazilli, however, decoyed the batter into thinking his drive left the park, and when the batter slowed at second, Mazilli rifled a throw to third that nailed him.

The next two batters each singled, and advanced to third and second, respectively, on a wild pitch. One out later, the lead runner scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1, Madison.

It wouldn’t stay that way long.

Collins led off the home fifth with a flare single to center. Martin then beat out a bounce hit to short, with Collins taking second.

Edwards, not able to lay down a bunt, did better, singling to center, to score Collins. Campbell bounced into a fielder’s choice out at second, but another run scored, to cut Madison’s lead to 5-3.

With two runs in and just one out, Brady’s line single to left put runners on first and second. A walk to Scruggs filled the bases for Mazilli, who lined a two-run single to right center, tying the score at 5-5.

That was the Wolverines’ high-water mark of the evening, as Madison tacked on three in the sixth and another run in the seventh.

Polk was able to pull off another defensive gem, however. Groves had been on the mound for Polk, but later in the seventh, Collins took over.

With runners on first and third and one down, Martin threw out the batter at first on a dropped third strike.

When the runner on third smelled a run and sprinted toward the plate, Groves fired from first back to Martin, who applied another diving tag, completing an unconventional, but effective, double play.

“It’s been a tough stretch,” Stott admitted. “I’m not giving up. I hope they don’t. I want them to be determined.”

Some players, including Edwards, Collins and Brady, have done well at multiple positions. That versatility and willingness pleased Stott.

“If we can perform at the level we need to, they’ll say we have a scrappy team,” said Stott.

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