The Hilltoppers kept their division record perfect with a sweep over Kosciusko last week, but they had to work to make it happen.
In the Thursday game at Kosy, the Toppers dealt the Whippets a 12-2 win, setting up a decidedly tougher rematch for Friday.
“We knew Thursday night was one of those games where Kosy just didn’t have their best stuff and we capitalized on their mistakes,” said coach Scott Gann. “Friday was more of what we expected, pretty tight and intense game.”
Toppers take early lead
The Toppers defense made short work of the Whippets in the top of the first and made some noise in the bottom of the frame.
Justin Kimbrough sent one up the first base line for a single and reached second on a Kosy throwing error and Denver McQuary reached on a HBP. Luke Hancock’s pop-up was mishandled allowing him to reach and send Kimbrough home to break open the scoreboard. Grady Nabors dropped one in the hole behind second to RBI McQuary and Reid Carter singled to left field to send courtesy runner Justin Hardin across the plate for a 3-0 lead.
Kosy made their move in the top of the fourth with Ben Hudson hitting an RBI single and Wesley Drew crossing safely after a steal by Hudson put the Toppers off balance.
The Whippets tied it up in the fifth with Ryan Rigby’s RBI single but the Toppers went up one in the bottom of the frame with McQuary reaching on a pitching error, stealing second and heading home on Nabors’ single.
The Toppers held the lead through the sixth but the Whippets tied it up again in the top of the seventh, forcing extra innings.
Tenth inning showdown
Kosy took a lead in the top of the tenth as Rigby and Hudson both crossed the plate and the pressure was on for the Toppers.
Carter led off with a single over second and Wes Parker repeated it to put runners at first and second. Garrison Howell walked on to load the bases and Austin Burdine drew a two-out walk to close the gap to one run.
McQuary hit to second and dove in safely at first to tie up the score and Hancock sailed a hit past second for the walk-off single and a 7-6 win.
Gann said he hopes the challenge of losing the lead and having to gain it back was a motivating experience for the Houston club.
“Hopefully that two-out, tenth-inning rally will be what propels this team to finish out the season strong,” Gann said.
Heading to the home stretch
The Toppers can’t rest on their laurels now, as they will wrap up division play this week against West Lauderdale. Houston (19-3-1, 8-0) will face the Knights (20-0, 8-0) Tuesday at home and Thursday in Collinsville to determine who gets out of district in the top spot.
“They are going to be really tough,” Gann said. “They have two pitchers that throw in the low 90s and they can hit it pretty good, too. Their head coach has been around for a while and won a ton of games for the Knights. This week will be exciting trying to win the division.”