Wolverines succumb to Hendersonville’s Bearcats

Published 10:00pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

Polk County’s baseball squad played possibly its best game of the season on Tuesday evening, but came up short against Hendersonville, the region’s best team.
Wes Brady’s three-run homer in the home first gave the Wolverines a 3-0 lead, and Polk scored three more in the sixth to take a 6-5 lead, but the Wolverines couldn’t match Hendersonville’s experience and firepower, and the Bearcats went on to win, 11-6.
The 7-16 (5-7 in the conference) Wolverines finish their regular season on Friday at East Henderson. It’s varsity-only, with game time at 6:30. Starting pitcher Konner Scruggs kept the Bearcats from scoring in the top of the first, aided by catcher Tyler Campbell, who pegged out a runner trying to steal second.
After the game, Polk coach Ty Stott praised the overall team effort, noting, “We didn’t give up. They (Hendersonville) had to win it.” In the home first, Polk proved that it wasn’t rolling over, just because Hendersonville entered the game undefeated. With one down, Bryce Martin, who has alternately played catcher and second baseman, ripped a triple to deep right, sliding in at third just ahead of the throw. Campbell walked, bringing Brady to the plate. Brady lifted a mile-high pop foul out of play. Uncharacteristically, no one in the dugout seemed interested in retrieving the ball. They must have sensed what was coming. Brady then slammed the next good offering over the fence in center to  put Polk ahead, 3-0. Morgan Groves followed with a hard single, and Mark Mazilli walked, but that was all the Wolverines could manage in the first.
Unfortunately for Polk, the Bearcats brought their usual arsenal to the game, including catcher Justin Sparks. Sparks led off the top of the second by lining the ball far over the fence in left center. Two long doubles followed, the second making the score 3-2. Scruggs induced the next batter to ground out to third, with no advance by the runner, but a bunt put runners on first and third with just one down. Polk center fielder Mark Mazilli, who covered plenty of gorund during the game, had to go way back to haul in a long fly for out number two, and had no chance to keep the runner on third from scoring. A fly out to right ended the damage, and, after an inning and a half, it was 3-3. Polk had another chance in the home second. With one down, JD Edwards walked, and advanced to second when Martin was out at first by a whisker on an infield grounder. After two, the score remained 3-3.
Stott brought in Brady from short, and put him on the mound to start the top of the third. Brady pitched three innings, keeping Polk in the game against the hard-hitting Bearcats. The score remained 3-3 until the top of the fifth. In that half frame, an error on a grounder to short, and a single to right center, put Bearcat runners at the corners with no outs. Another long fly out to center put the visitors ahead, 4-3, and a long sacrifice fly to right scored run number five, that runner having taken third on the previous play. A double banged off the fence in right center, but Hendersonville was finished scoring for the time being, and Polk came to bat in the home fifth, trailing, 5-3.
Edwards led off with a hard single past short. Martin beat out a bouncer to third, to put runners at first and second. A good bunt and a bad throw allowed Edwards to score and Martin to race to third. With Polk runners at the corners, Hendersonville changed pitchers. Brady, the next batter, might have been trying too hard, and struck out swinging. Groves also fanned, but Mazilli delivered a game-tying RBI single to right. Scruggs followed with another single, putting the Wolverines ahead, 6-5, with Mazilli making it to third. Polk couldn’t do any more damage that inning, but had showed both Stott and many loyal fans what they were made of.
Nathan Collins got the ball for the top of the sixth, with Polk leading. Regardless of who was pitching for Polk, Hendersonville’s hitters could only be controlled for so long. Collins retired the leadoff hitter on a pop to short, but a bunt single followed by a sacrifice bunt, put a runner at second with two outs. Caleb Williamson then banged a triple to the fence in left for an RBI triple, and Hendersonville had tied the game at 6-6. Groves then snagged a foul-bound liner at first for out number three.
Polk went down, one-two-three in the home sixth. Hendersonville’s bats were still smoking hot to start the seventh. The Bearcats’ Noah Linhart lined a gapper to left center for two bases. A bunt single put runners at first and third. With on one out, Stott visited the mound, but made no change. But, when Collins nicked the next batter, loading the bases, Stott gave the ball to Edwards. A fairly hard hit double brought in all three runners, making it 9-6. A wild pitch put the runner on third. He scored on a bloop single to right center. A pop out to Scruggs at third made it one down, but the next batter  lined a single up the middle to put runners on first and second. A single to center scored the lead runner to end the scoring at 11-6.
For the home seventh, Hendersonville brought six-foot-eight pitcher Samuel Linn to the mound. A pop out and two strikeouts later, the Bearcats won their 20th game of the season against no losses, but in this game, they might have endured their biggest scare. Regardless of the outcome, Stott was pleased that his team had played so hard and so well against Hendersonville. “If we bring that effort all year long, we could be 14-7, instead of 7-14. “It was,” he continued, “one through fifteen players. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. We had people stroking line drives, making plays .  We didn’t play scared. I couldn’t be more pleased with the effort. They (the players) needed it. The seniors (Trevor Arrowood, Wes Brady and Tyler Tomberlin) needed it.”
Stott also credited Hendersonville, whom he said “played very unselfishly. He noted that the Bearcats used their best pitcher to close the game. He also called Justin Sparks (whose long homer put the Bearcats on the scoreboard) “a great hitter.”
In recent action, Polk had defeated Avery, 11-1, and topped Mitchell, 8-5. For next year, Stott promised, “We’re not going to stop trying. We’re not going to stop working hard. I’m very happy with the effort, the intensity, the teamwork.”

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