Bath recovers from blowing lead late, wins state title

Published 4:15 pm Monday, July 30, 2018

HICKORY — Similar to a heavyweight boxing match with two titans trading blows, the Bath 15U All-Star team and Hickory played a back-and-forth state title game that went to extra innings. Finally, in the eight inning, Bath came up with some timely hitting to defeat Hickory, 11-8, to win the Tar Heel League State Tournament Sunday.

“Every time they got in a little bit of trouble, they responded and did what they were supposed to do,” Bath coach Doug Dixon said of his players. “The kids played really well. They all did what we asked. The whole team had a role. They filled their role and it was really just a great team effort and we got a lot of great hits at just the right time and got great pitching performances at the right time too.”

It would’ve been easy for Bath’s players to drop their heads after the sixth inning. They had led since the third and scored two runs of their own in the top of the sixth to build a three-run cushion, needing to make only six more outs to clinch the state title.

So, when Hickory scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game, one couldn’t have been blamed for thinking Hickory, playing in front of a home crowd, would go on to win the game. But that’s not what happened on Sunday.

Instead, Bath’s Ryan Woolard neutralized Hickory’s bats the rest of the way, allowing only one base runner during the seventh and eighth innings. Then in the top of eighth, Bath made the plays it needed to win the game.

Matthew Adams led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and taking first. Carter Boyd followed with a base hit, before a Hickory defensive error allowed Tyler Modlin to reach first and load the bases. Ryan Cornelius stepped to the plate to rip an RBI-single to left field for one of his team-high three hits in the game, giving Bath a 9-8 lead.

Caleb Alligood followed by hitting into a fielder’s choice to score Boy and Cameron Craig hit a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing home Modlin and giving Bath an 11-8 lead. Woolard then quickly closed the game out, retiring Hickory’s final three batters with only nine pitches, including a strikeout to seal the championship victory.

Despite trailing for large parts of the game, it was actually the Hickory All-Stars who scored first. After Hickory’s first two batters of the game failed to reach first, Gabe Strickland singled to left field to become his team’s first base runner. Will Russo then blasted a 2-run home run to center field, giving Hickory a 2-0 lead in the first.

It took some time, but Bath eventually responded with a four-run outburst in the top of the third. The combination of discipline at the plate and timely hitting helped Bath get on the board. Two drawn walks and a hit batter loaded the bases for the Bath All-Stars, before base hits from Adams and Boyd and a Modlin fielder’s choice brought Bath’s base runners home to score.

The Bath All-Stars’ 11-8 win over Hickory was actually their second of the day. Having already lost to Hickory earlier in the double-elimination tournament, Bath defeated Hickory 12-2 Sunday morning to set up the winner-take-all game later that afternoon.