Decisive call eliminates Priceville|
Bulldogs' baseball run ends in 2A quarterfinals
By Kyle Veazey
DAILY Sports Writer
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PHIL CAMPBELL — Priceville High coach Shane Hopkins had to like his odds, down only a run midway through a decisive third game in a Class 2A state baseball playoff quarterfinal series.
His sophomore pitcher, Lance Hughes, had allowed only one run, while the flamethrower in the other dugout had shut out the Bulldogs.
That was until Hughes got thrown out of the game on the last play of the top of the fourth. He tossed a bat in frustration after striking out to end the inning, and the plate umpire perceived it as unsportsmanlike.
Hughes was lifted, and Priceville's pitching couldn't keep up.
Phil Campbell pushed across seven runs in the next half-inning and three more in the fifth to cruise to an 11-1 series-clinching win over Priceville.
"To me, that's the umpires taking the game into their own hands with the pitcher in a 1-0 game in the fourth inning," said Hopkins, whose Bulldogs' season ended at 25-15. "I don't see how you can do that."
Hopkins said the umpires had not issued a warning, and he felt the bat toss wasn't any more forceful than what many hitters normally do in such a situation.
Hughes was far from heated after the game.
"I shouldn't gave gotten upset just because blue made a bad call," Hughes said. "It was my fault."
Hughes was visibly angry after the fifth pitch in his at bat, a 3-1 offering that appeared high. He checked his swing on the throw, then ran to first on what he thought was a walk. But the Bobcats appealed, and the umpire at second base ruled that he had brought his bat far enough around to be a strike.
Hughes stepped back into the box, only to strike out swinging on a high fastball from Phil Campbell ace Griffin Harris. After walking Dale Taylor and hitting Dustin Hamilton with none out, Harris had coaxed the last three batters of the inning to strike out.
"Once they blowed up over there, then we kind of took the advantage," Phil Campbell coach Michael Beck said. "We never did really get to (Hughes), but then he threw himself out of the game and we felt pretty good after that."
The turning point, Hopkins agreed, were the questionable calls that took Hughes out of the game.
"Our pitcher was doing everything he could," Hopkins said. "We were holding them down. I thought once that kind of happened, and we were in the ballgame, that we lost it."
Harris, a junior, improved to 11-0. He relied more on the fastball than Jonathan Dill, his colleague who baffled Priceville in the first game of the series.
"I didn't have my best stuff today, but I was able to hit the spots a bit with the curve ball," said Harris
Phil Campbell (29-12) took control in home half of the fourth. Dustin Chambers entered to replace Hughes, but he lasted only two-thirds of an inning. Chambers was able to get two of the first three batters out, but struggled after that.
Five hits and a costly fielding error later, Phil Campbell had pushed across seven runs. The Bulldogs seemed deflated, but managed to load the bases with none out in the fifth before Harris again struck out the last three batters. Cody Allen drove home Priceville's only run with a single to right field that scored Aaron Sawyer.
The Bobcats jumped on new pitcher Rand Hutchison to start the fifth. He allowed two runs before being lifted for Justin Crow as the Bobcats precariously led 10-1. The next run ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
With the win, Phil Campbell earned a berth in the state semifinals next weekend against Colbert Heights.
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