The Cullman Times
Sixth-inning magic was what helped the Good Hope baseball team advance to the playoffs. It wasn’t supposed to lead to their exit, too.
Winfield eked by the Raiders 4-2 in Game 1 and then went off for nine runs in the sixth en route to an 18-6 victory in Friday’s nightcap, completing a sweep to move on to the second round for a fourth consecutive year.
With Nathan Doss on the hill in the opener, the Raiders (12-15) jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a couple of untimely errors allowed the Pirates (26-8) to tie the game and take control. The ace induced a two-out grounder to third that should’ve ended one of the middle innings, but the fielder’s throw to first was off-line, allowing two Winfield runners to cross the plate.
Another miscue on a pickoff play with runners on first and third later in the contest, coupled with Good Hope’s inability to put the ball in play at the plate, was just enough to put the Pirates in command with a Game 1 win.
“One or two errors in the field will cost you in a big game like that,” Raider coach Mitch Witcher said.
Unfortunately for the Red and White, the mistakes kept coming in the nightcap.
With Tyler Stringer taking the mound this time around, Good Hope again struck first, holding a 1-0 lead until another flurry of errors — highlighted by a missed fly ball with two outs — resulted in a six-run inning for Winfield.
The Raiders continued to battle back, but the Pirates’ nine-run outburst in the sixth turned out to be the final piece of the puzzle for the sweep.
“We just couldn’t put it together. It’s kind of frustrating going over there thinking we had a chance to win. It’s heartbreaking for the boys,” Witcher said. “We controlled the situation and let it slip out of our hands because we didn’t make the plays we needed to, defensively or offensively.”
Friday’s doubleheader marked Good Hope’s second-straight postseason appearance. After the pair of losses, Witcher said he talked to his boys about all the work they’ll need to put in — both on and off the field — during the offseason to not only return the playoffs, but to make a run in 2014.
“Just making it isn’t good enough,” the coach said.
As much as the defeats still stung on Saturday morning, Witcher couldn’t deny how much he enjoyed coaching this group of boys throughout the season. He said he’s especially grateful for the team's four seniors — Stringer, Drakkar Chambers, Kendall Duke and Brian Thomas — who suited up in the Red and White for the final time on Friday night.
“Those guys have meant a lot to this program,” Witcher said.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.