By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One out away from a 2-1 victory last Thursday, the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels were about to send their faithful home happy.
But instead the University School of Jackson Bruins staged a four-run rally to avoid defeat and take a 5-2 lead. TRA Rebel shortstop Colton Hall tried to keep a positive outlook as he watched errors and miscues transform a victory into a three-run deficit.
“It’s not over,” Hall told his teammates. “We’re still in this.”
Hall was right and the Rebels even uped the score in their half of the seventh inning to send the contest to extra innings. USJ scored twice in the eighth inning. TRA could only manage one run to end up on the short end of a 7-6 score.
“We gave up the lead in the seventh but came back and tied it,” TRA Head Coach Brad Smith said. “We were three runs down and then we gave it back up in the eighth. We gave ourselves a chance with that last play. That’s the positive coming out of it.
“We made some young players mistakes,” he added. “It cost us some runs that got us in that situation. We played pretty well. USJ is a good ball club. To take two out of three against them is pretty good.”
The Rebels entered the game with an 20-7 overall record with eight victories coming in league play. TRA locked up a No. 2 seed in this week’s Regional.
The Rebels were on their way to another league win in the regular-season finale against USJ led by hurler Gil Erwin.
“We played well enough to win that ball game,” Smith said. “Gil pitched good enough to win that ball game. But I’m proud of how this young group didn’t give up and battled back.”
Erwin guided the Rebels to a 2-1 lead entering the seventh inning. But three runs by the Bruins forced TRA to come to bat in the seventh.
With one out, Hall spoke with his stick by getting a base hit. Next up to the plate was Conner Alexander stroking a double to score Hall making the score 5-3.
Once Hall reached the TRA dugout, he kept reiterating to his teammates, ‘It’s not over.’
Hall’s fellow senior Brandon Mitson kept the rally going with a single to score Alexander. With the score 5-4, Rebel Logan Stewart reached base on a single.
After an intentional walk to load the bases with one out, Erwin came to the plate. The sophomore erased his name from the loss column with a ground out toward first base to drive home a run tying the game.
In the eighth inning USJ scored two runs on a Garrett Diamond double. Once again the Rebels had to rally with Blaine Curtis starting it with a double to centerfield.
Two batters later Alexander was walked. Then Mitson loaded the bases reaching on an error. Rebel Jacob LaFosse came to the plate with two outs looking to cut into the two run deficit.
LaFosse had a patient at bat forcing a walk and Curtis stepped on home plate to make the score 7-6. But the Rebel’s rally fell short when a ground out at first ended the game.
Although the TRA players left Rebel Field disappointed, Smith said his players held their heads high overcoming the low expectation from so-called experts entering the season to earn a No. 2 seed.
“They’re worked hard,” he said. “I’ve got some good kids. Very athletic and some are still learning the game on the varsity level. We’re learning on the fly. Each game we do something that maybe older kids wouldn’t do. You’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt.
“I just use them as coaching points,” Smith concluded. “I keep telling our kids, ‘If we make mistakes before May 1 and keep learning from them, and we don’t make them in May, then they’re not bad mistakes. They’re just learning curves.’”