BASEBALL: Hilltoppers retain undefeated record in wild eight-inning win over Wolverines

Published 12:14 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

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Amid all the chaos Friday evening at The Bottoms, one thing remained remarkably clear.

Polk County had a very good opportunity to hand R-S Central its first loss of the season. And let it slip away, far too literally.

R-S Central scored a game-tying run with two outs in the seventh inning, then racked up 11 runs in the top of the eighth to hand the Wolverines a 15-4 setback in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference matchup.

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The Hilltoppers improved to 15-0 overall, 8-0 in conference play, remaining tied with East Rutherford for the league lead. Polk County dropped to 7-8, 2-6 pending an appeal of its contested forfeit to Patton.

As Polk fights to reach at least a .500 record for the season and earn a home 1A playoff game, this loss will sting. It will also be quite memorable for many reasons.

R-S trailed 3-1 entering the top of the sixth, but sliced the lead in half as Cullen Pruett walked and scored on Harrison Jackson’s double to right-center. Jackson moved to third, then scored on a two-out Polk error to even the game at three.

Polk, though, answered in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with one out on an R-S error, an intentional walk to Gunnar Alm and a Karson Scruggs single. Lawson Carter drew a walk to put Polk in front, and Alex Perry worked his at-bat to a 3-2 count.

On that 3-2 pitch, R-S catcher Jacob White attempted to pick Alm off third. His throw struck Perry, who was ruled to be out of the batter’s box and called out for interference. The Hilltoppers then got the final out to keep the score at 4-3.

A one-out infield error in the top of the seventh gave R-S Central an opportunity, and pinch runner Carter Austin soon moved to second on a wild pitch, then third on a passed ball. And, with Austin there, Polk catcher Cohen Edwards tried to pick him off, with his throw striking batter Jake Lyles. That drew another call for catcher’s interference, which soon led to the ejection of an R-S Central coach and emotions running rampant all around.

“My heart rate is at 139,” a Polk County coach said during the seventh.

But one out away from defeat, R-S Central got a lifeline as another passed ball allowed Austin to race home, evening the score.

The eighth inning provided none of the same drama as a collection of hits, walks, hit batters and errors allowed R-S Central to send 17 batters to the plate and total its 11 runs.

The ending didn’t take away from a solid Polk County effort. Polk grabbed an early 1-0 lead on Lawson Carter’s sacrifice fly, then upped the margin to 2-0 in the third as Alm singled and Scruggs belted a double off the fence in left-center.

R-S cut the lead to 2-1, but the Wolverines responded with a run in the fifth. Scruggs laced a double down the third-base line, Carter was hit by a pitch and Mason Beiler reached on an error to load the bases. Zalen McCraw then drew a walk to force home Scruggs and make it 3-1.

Scruggs finished 3-for-5, with Mark Jarrett, Noah Harden, Alm and Edwards each adding a hit.

Perry started and pitched five innings, giving up two hits and striking out four. Carter and Edwards pitched the final three innings.

Polk County was set to host North Henderson on Tuesday for a non-conference clash.