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franklin county times

Red Bay rallies past Bulldogs

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
BELGREEN - Morgan Stanfield delivered a key bases-loaded double in a four-run fifth inning by Red Bay on Wednesday as the Tigers rallied for a 6-5 victory over Belgreen, completing a series sweep of the Bulldogs in Class 2A, Area 16 play.
Cody Armstrong earned the win for Red Bay (8-4, 2-0 area), striking out nine in a complete game. Justin Gardner took the loss for Belgreen despite striking out 11 and allowing only five hits in seven strong innings.
"We're 2-0 in the area, but we're having to fight for it," Red Bay coach Donnie Hastings said. "Belgreen is tough. The first time we played them this year, I could tell they had really improved since last season. We knew we were going to run into Gardner eventually. He had a good curveball going today, and he definitely had his fastball, too."
Behind the pitching of Gardner and aggressive baserunning (eight stolen bases by game's end), the Bulldogs carried a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning.
Gardner struck out the first two batters, but Stephen Prestage reached first when strike three got past the catcher. Brandon Brown followed with a single to left, and Nathan Hopkins walked to load the bases.
What happened next sparked more than a little controversy. Armstrong hit a grounder to short with the infield in, and Colby Barnett threw home in an attempt to force out the runner.
The ball arrived in plenty of time, but the home plate umpire ruled that Barnett's throw pulled catcher Jesse Edwards' foot off the plate. Prestage was called safe, cutting Belgreen's lead to 4-2.
Bulldog coach Derek Ergle raced from the dugout to argue the call, to no avail.
"We've had a run of bad luck lately when it comes to calls and various things like that going against us," Ergle said. "It's frustrating. But I'm proud of our guys. They haven't hung their heads, and they haven't given up. They're continuing to improve with their fundamentals and their attitude."
Following the play at the plate, Stanfield lined a pitch from Gardner into the gap in right-center to tie the game 4-4. Armstrong stopped halfway between home and third on the play, and Stanfield had to retreat to second base after going all the way to third.
The throw to second to get Stanfield went into center field, allowing Armstrong to score the go-ahead run.
Hastings said he had no doubt his team could come back from an early 4-0 deficit.
"I kept telling our guys that if we started hitting the ball like we've been doing, we would be fine," he said. "We couldn't have asked for anything better than Morgan's hit: A line drive that went right between the outfielders with the bases loaded.
"I told Cody when he went to the plate to just try and get one run home, because he had a good guy hitting behind him. Morgan had a good guy behind him, too. I was hoping to score one run at a time, and we ended up getting three at one time."
After Red Bay scored an insurance run in the top of the sixth, Belgreen got one run home and had runners at first and third with one out in the bottom half.
Jordan Williams hit a bouncer back to the mound, and Armstrong threw out Barnett at the plate for the second out. He then retired Edwards on a pop-up with runners at second and third to preserve the one-run lead.
The Bulldogs threatened again in their final at bat, but Nicholas Taylor caught Marty Britton's deep fly ball at the fence in left.
"When he hit it, I was thinking, 'Oh, no,'" said Armstrong, who struck out Grant Tarascou with a runner on second to end the game. "He got a good lick on it, I'll give him that. I was just saying, 'Go, Nick, go.'"
From his vantage point in the home dugout, Ergle thought Britton had tied the game.
"When it left the bat, I thought he had hit a home run," Ergle said. "That's just part of the bad luck we've been having lately."
Armstrong allowed just two earned runs on seven hits, walking one batter and hitting two more.
"Cody pitched a good game today," Hastings said. "We gave up some runs, but he was in control from the first inning through the seventh."
Gardner allowed four earned runs, notching double-digit strikeouts for the second time this season.
"Justin threw really well today," Ergle said. "Any time you pitch like that, you deserve to win the game."
Barnett finished 3-for-4 with four stolen bases and a run scored. Edwards was 2-for-4 with a double, and Britton and Josh Smith each added one hit.
Brown led Red Bay at the plate, going 2-for-3 with three of the team's eight stolen bases. Armstrong was 1-for-4 with two runs scored, and Stanfield and Ely Cox each had a double.
In previous action:
Red Bay 6 Belgreen 4
Ely Cox's two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning broke a 4-4 tie and made a winner out of Brandon Brown on Tuesday in the Class 2A, Area 16 opener for both teams.
Brown pitched a complete game, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits. He struck out eight and walked one.
Shane Fretwell took the loss for Belgreen.
Red Bay led 4-0 before the Bulldogs rallied for two runs in the top of the third and two more in the fourth to tie the game.
Morgan Stanfield and Derrick Miller singled in the bottom of the fourth, and Cox drove them both in to give Red Bay the lead for good.
Stanfield finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and Nathan Hopkins was also 2-for-4 with a double. Brown and Stephen Prestage each had a double and an RBI, as did Cody Armstrong. Nicholas Taylor and Sammy Thigpen each added one hit.

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