By Zack Huffman
It was not easy, but after seven grueling innings against the Mt. Zion Bulldogs, Stockbridge finally put an end to their nine-loss skid with a 12-11 win at home.
"We're feeling pretty good," said Stockbridge coach Johnny Burch. "These kids have been working hard all year and they needed a win."
Stockbridge unleashed the opening salvo, taking an 8-0 lead in the first four innings, before Mt. Zion rallied, forcing the Tigers to have to break an 11-11 tie in the bottom of the seventh to earn their first 4-AAAA region win of the season.
"In high school baseball, no lead is safe," said Burch. "It came in more of a dramatic fashion than we thought it would, but we'll take it."
The Bulldogs struggled defensively from the beginning. After taking three outs with no offensive production in the top of the first, Mt. Zion took the field, giving up two hits and three runs.
Stockbridge's Chris Hallett scored a double off the first pitch he faced. Ben Carr would join him on base before both players eventually made it home.
Justin Nichols, who was beaned to get on first base, also made it home to round out scoring for the Tigers in the first inning.
The second inning was even more successful for Stockbridge.
Just when it looked like Mt. Zion's defense had recovered from a rough first inning, Stockbridge pulled a two-out rally, thanks in part, to Carr and Kyle Turman receiving walks, followed by a single from Nichols to load the bases.
All three would make it home, followed by Jeremy Stargill and Leon Prunty who scored on base hits.
As Mt. Zion continued to struggle offensively, the Bulldogs brought in pitcher Devonte Lester who shut Stockbridge out of the third inning.
The fourth inning came and went with just two hits from Mt. Zion and none from Stockbridge.
Mt. Zion's rally began in the fifth inning.
Brandon Mapp was sent to first on a walk. He was then sent home by Reggie Mitchell's home run. Nichols, who was on the mound for Stockbridge, bailed his team out of a bases loaded situation from there.
The Tigers built on their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Jayshun Allen sent Prunty home on a double. Hallett also made it home for push Stockbridge back to an eight-run lead heading into the sixth.
The Bulldogs continued their uprising when Joel Williams clobbered the pitch for a grand slam, sending Mapp, Mitchell and Marc Threet home. Carr hit a homerun to open the bottom of the sixth, leaving Stockbridge ahead 11-6 going into the final inning.
"That grand slam Williams hit really helped," said Mt. Zion coach Art Wilkerson. "It's tough for anybody to come back from 8-0.
I think that made them start to believe they could come back and win the game."
Marcus Swint, Lester, Mapp, Mitchell and Threet all scored runs on errors to tie up the game.
Mt. Zion still lacked a single out when Stockbridge sent Hallett to the mound.
Hallett made short work of Mt. Zion's next three batters.
In the bottom of the ninth Stockbridge loaded the bases before Drexel Copeland came in to pitch for the Bulldogs.
The Tigers needed just one hit and that's what Carr gave them, sending home Mitchell Williams for the win.