Wolverine baseball team erupts to bury Mountain Heritage 12-2

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, March 20, 2014

Polk’s Daniel Painter about to score in the Wolverines’ fourth-inning eruption against Mountain Heritage. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

Polk’s Daniel Painter about to score in the Wolverines’ fourth-inning eruption against Mountain Heritage. (photo by Mark Schmerling)

Well-placed hits, sacrifice flies and good at-bats in general helped Polk County High School’s baseball team erupt for nine runs in the home fourth, as the Wolverines walloped Mountain Heritage 12-2 on Wednesday, March 19.
Polk plated two more runs in the fifth inning to end the game through the 10-run rule.The win was just the second for Polk (2-5), but the Wolverines’ performance was just what coach Ty Stott was waiting for, and what he knew his team is capable of showing more often.
Stott, searching for his number two starter, gave the ball to Morgan Groves to pitch, who responded with five strong innings. Though Groves struggled a bit with his control in the visitors’ fifth, when the Cougars scored one run, they managed to hit the ball only weakly in that frame.
After last week’s loss to Erwin, Stott explained that if his hitters were patient and pesky, they could score lots of runs. While Polk dropped a 10-3 game to conference powerhouse Madison (with its five talented transfer players) last Friday, March 14, things were different when the Cougars visited.
“We needed it,” Stott said of the big win. We’ll take it. Everything changes (when the players hit). Hopefully, this will be their coming out.”
Stott said the team has made some hitting changes in practice. Last week Stott said  good hitting produces more relaxed players, who then hit well.
“It’s a snowball effect,” Stott said. “We started hitting, putting the ball in play. J.D. Edwards has been a spark plug in our lineup. Morgan had a tremendous outing.
We desperately needed him to come out and give us five innings.”
Groves did that, and more, slugging a long double in the fourth.
Each team scored a lone run in the second.
After Groves retired the Cougars in the top of the fourth, Polk wasted no time putting runners on base and sending them home.
Wes Brady singled to lead off. Groves doubled Brady to third. The Cougars intentionally walked Dequan Gary to load the bases, maybe a percentage move, but it backfired. Damien Cantrell muscled a soft liner to left for an RBI single, as everyone moved up a base. Polk led 2-1, and never looked back.
Konner Scruggs lofted a long fly down the left field line that fell just fair for a single. Because the runners were unsure if the ball would be caught, they moved up just one base each, and Polk led 3-1. Painter followed by lashing a two-run single and alertly took second on the throw home. With four runs in, Mountain Heritage still hadn’t retired a batter, and called in a new pitcher to try to stop the bleeding. It didn’t work.
Bryce Martin lined a single to right, sending Scruggs home and Painter to third. With Edwards at the plate, Martin stole second. Edwards then flied to deep left, scoring Painter to make it 7-1, with just one away. A passed ball sent Martin to third. Center fielder Mark Mazilli walked, bringing Brady to the plate with runners on first and third. Mazilli took second on a wild pitch, putting Polk runners on second and third. Brady beat out an infield hit, scoring Martin to make it 8-1. A line single by Groves scored Mazilli, with Brady taking third. This time the Cougars pitched to Gary, but his groundout to short scored Brady with the final run of the inning, as Polk hit double figures for the first time this season.
In the top of the fifth, Groves once again took the mound and his off-speed offerings upset the Cougars’ timing. The first batter was out on a swinging bunt just in front of the plate. Groves then accidentally plunked the next batter with an off-speed pitch. A wild pitch sent the runner to second. Another pitch that got away put the runner on third. Next batter grounded to Brady, who threw him out, as a run scored. One Mountain Heritage batter managed a line single to center, but Mazilli’s quick throw held him at first. Groves got the next batter to ground to short, where Brady’s strong throw to first cut him down to end the threat.
Already leading 10-2, the Wolverines weren’t finished.
With a left-hand pitcher on the mound for the Cougars, Scruggs walked to open the home fifth. Painter followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jesse Bradley greeted yet another pitcher with a hard single to left to load the bases. Trevor Arrowood flied out to right, but Scruggs scored and Painter took third. With Mazilli at the plate, the Cougars’ catcher didn’t like Painter’s lead and fired down to third. Painter got back safely and Bradley dashed to second. Mazilli walked once again bringing Brady to the plate with the bases full.
Brady launched one home-run distance, but several feet foul to the left, before scoring Painter on a sacrifice fly. When Painter slid home ahead of the throw, the score was 12-2, automatically ending the game via the 10-run rule.
Polk, a perennial slow starter, is now 1-1 in conference play, but is looking up. Last year after a slow start, they went into the last conference game with just one conference loss.
“We’re going to keep getting better,” Stott predicted. “We’re working harder, I think, than any team I’ve ever had. It’s paying off.”
Regarding last Friday’s loss at Madison, Stott said, “They (the Patriots) are really good, very confident. They punched us in the mouth early.”
Though the Wolverines couldn’t come back against Madison, they had plenty to show Mountain Heritage.
Polk hosted Mitchell Thursday, March 20. On Tuesday, March 24 the Wolverines play Avery at home then visit Erwin on March 27. Polk had to reschedule a game against Chase, which is now set for April 30. Another home game against T.C. Roberson is now scheduled for April 21, with the varsity (no JV game) beginning at 5 p.m.

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