E.A. Sports Today

Wildcats’ wild finish

Saks rallies to beat ninth-ranked Ohatchee on wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning

Thursday’s results
Etowah 2, Cherokee County 0
Saks 6, Ohatchee 5
Spring Garden 7, Weaver 4
Talladega 5-0, Cleburne County 1-4

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Cody Hopkins may not have played baseball the last two years, but he never forgot how to win.

The Saks junior second baseman spent the last two years focusing on more scholarly pursuits, but returned to the field this season because “I felt like I needed to do something this year.”

Thursday afternoon in the bottom of the seventh Hopkins executed one of the more difficult plays in the game — a safety squeeze — that sent home the tying run and kept the line moving on a rally that produced a 6-5 matinee win over Ohatchee.

“I just felt confidence in myself I could do it,” Hopkins said.

The Wildcats (6-4) pushed across the winning run moments later when Jaylen Childs scored on a wild pitch by Taylor Eubanks.

Although the Wildcats work on it every day in practice, Hopkins guessed the last time he dropped a bunt down in a game was as an eighth-grader. He didn’t play the last two years to concentrate on keeping up his GPA that now has him ranked second in his class, but he felt the time was right to return.

“I just feel like my junior year I needed to start playing again because you only get one chance,” he said.

Harley Burgess got Saks’ rally started when he reached on an infield error and Childs, the Wildcats’ cleanup hitter, followed with an 0-2 double over Ohatchee left fielder Grayson Alward’s head after showing bunt.

The runners stayed when Caleb Ogle grounded to short. But they were moving when Hopkins dropped his bunt between the mound and first and Burgess beat the flip to the plate to tie the game.

“That was a big play because, especially in today’s baseball, it’s hard to get a kid to sacrifice for the team and lay a bunt down,” Saks coach Wes Ginn said. “It shouldn’t be hard, because it’s simple, but it was a big play in the game. It was probably the smallest play, but it was the biggest at the same time.

“Cody Hopkins is a team man. Whatever you ask him to do he’s going to do it. He doesn’t complain. He’s going to work hard every day he shows up at the field. That’s what we’ve been talking about: If you do the little things right in team sports, big things are going to happen – and that’s what happened today.

“What was big in my eye is Harley trusts Cody and knows he’s going to bunt the ball down and Cody trusts Harley to get there (home). They relied on each other and trusted each other and it gave us a chance to win the game at the end.”

Eubanks got his 11th strikeout for the second out, but then, pushing 100 pitches after relieving starter Larry Noah in the second, threw a pitch in the dirt left of the plate with Jimmie Harlin in the box and Childs raced home with the winning run.

The play made a winning pitcher of Harlin, who was the beneficiary of the new pitch count rule.

Harlin was called in to finish in the seventh after Wildcats starter Brody Johnson reached his 120-pitch maximum. He entered with one out in the seventh, got an infield fly, issued an intentional walk to load the bases and got a strikeout. He threw 12 pitches – one-tenth of what Johnson recorded — and got the win.

“That pitching is so big in baseball,” Ginn said. “If you can throw strikes and keep people from running on you, you can play with anybody.”

Ohatchee took a 5-4 lead on Kevin Williamson’s leadoff homer in the fifth. The Indians also had leads of 1-0 and 4-2 in the game.

Ohatchee 101 210 0 — 5 6 3
Saks 200 200 2 — 6 7 3

WP: Jimmy Harlin. LP: Taylor Eubanks. 2B: Jaylon Jenkins (O), Austin Tucker (O), Harley Burgess 2 (S), Jaylen Childs (S). HR: Kevin Williamson (O).

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