By Rory Sharrock
It doesn't matter if it's high school, college or in the pros, pitching will always be the key to winning in the playoffs.
This is why both Mundy's Mill and Union Grove will play Saturday in a first-round elimination game. The Tigers won 2-0 in the opener and the Wolverines 4-0 in Game 2 to split their Class AAAAA playoff doubleheader Friday night at Mundy's Mill High School.
In Game 1, Mundy's Mill's Quintavious Drains and Union Grove's Nathan Fawbush went throw-for-throw, but Drains got the best of his counterpart in the Tigers' 2-0 win.
Drains went the distance and fanned eight batters to give his squad the early lead in the series.
"I just wanted to shut them down. I saw they couldn't hit my fastball, so I kept throwing it. My outside fastball was working and I was hitting the corner," Drains said. "They (Union Grove) were just looking and they weren't swinging. When they tried, they just hit bloopers. That's what helped me."
The Tigers broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when Brandon Hughes placed an 'excuse me' hit for an infield single that sent Jenson Floyd home from third.
Later, Niko Goodrum whiffed at strike three, but Union Grove catcher Will Harrison missed the ball. As Goodrum ran for first on the passed ball, Miguel Starks, who was at third, alertly made an aggressive dash for home and slid in with the second run of the game.
In the nightcap, the roles were reversed with Union Grove's pitching posting a goose egg on the scoreboard.
The Wolverines went up 2-0 in a bizarre bottom of the second inning.
With two men down, designated hitter Bryan Bentley reached on a fielding error at short. Then, Alan Futch hit a grounder to third that was scooped up by William Gorman and tossed over to first for the apparent final out. However, the ball interfered with the umpire and according to the ruling, if the umpire gets hit with the ball while he's in front of the fielders, every man is awarded the next base.
After having new daylight, Daniel Wright smacked an RBI single to right to bring home Bentley. Next, Will Harrison came through with an RBI on an infield hit. Harrison's gutsy effort hustling down the line while Tigers' second baseman Trey Holman lazily fielded the ball allowed the run to cross home plate.
Mundy's Mill had its chances to score but failed to execute in the clutch and left several runners stranded throughout Game 2.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the fifth, the Tigers loaded the bases, forcing Union Grove head coach Allen Franklin to visit the mound and pull starting pitcher Michael Thorne.
Nevertheless, the Wolverines' bullpen held their ground as Michael Hock slammed the door on the Tigers to end the threat.
"We had a good job by our boys coming back from a Game 1 loss," said Franklin. "It was a great pitcher's duel in the first game with two top pitchers who are going to the next level to play. We just couldn't string enough hits together the first game. We came back in the second game. The boys showed a lot of heart and we live to play another day."
Union Grove will make the trip back to Mundy's Mill Saturday at 1 p.m. for an elimination game with the winner advancing to the second round.
The pitching matchup for Game 3 features Starks of Mundy's Mill versus Futch of Union Grove.
"We have depth at pitching and hopefully that will prevail," said Mundy's Mill head coach Patrick Smith.
"We just have to concentrate in every situation and get the job done."