By Jeffery Armstrong
The Henry County Tar Heels put up a good fight, but they couldn't overtake the Atlanta Pirates Tuesday night, losing 9-7 in the AABC 17-18 Connie Mack State Tournament at Henry County High.
With the loss, the Tar Heels are eliminated from the tournament. The Pirates play tonight at 6:30 p.m.
The Pirates jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, thanks mostly to a three-run home run by former Mt. Zion High standout Chris Coggins. A second-inning error from Henry's Kyle Price led to another run for the Pirates and they led Henry 5-0.
The Tar Heels came right back in the bottom of the second, scoring four runs on only one hit. Pirates starting pitcher Demarcus Gordon hit the first two Tar Heel batters and then Henry pitcher Jeremy Hardy singled in a run. The next three Henry runs came on a wild pitch and a two-run error by Pirates first baseman K'ron Foster.
The score stayed 5-4 in favor of Atlanta until the fifth inning, when the Pirates scored two more runs on a groundout and an error to take a 7-4 lead. The Tar Heels committed four errors.
Henry again closed the gap to one run in the bottom of the fifth. Wade Lane and Jay Stephens had consecutive hits and after a Pirate error, the bases were loaded with no outs. Daniel Brooks singled home Lane and Jeremy Bridges hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-6.
Atlanta relief pitcher Trey Hooks, a rising senior at Riverdale High, walked Clint Harrison to load the bases again with two outs, but he managed to get Henry's Andy Carpenter to fly out to center to end the threat. Hooks hadn't pitched since the last day of the baseball regular season, but he said he practiced pitching at home.
Coggins drove in the game-winning run for the Pirates with his second double of the contest, driving home leadoff batter Tony Williams for an 8-6 lead in the sixth. Coggins went 3-for-4 on the night with a run scored and four RBIs.
"Playing on this team is fun. Everybody on this team can hit, so there's a lot less pressure on me to do everything," said Coggins, who's headed to Texas Southern University in Houston on an academic and baseball scholarship. "We've been winning games and we're trying to win a championship."
Corey Prator drove home Lane for Henry in the sixth for an 8-7 Pirates lead, but it wasn't enough. Atlanta scored one more run for the final 9-7 margin.
"We wanted this game tonight," said Hooks, who pitched four innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout. "We want to win; we don't want to end up in second place."