By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Facing one of the best pitchers in the nation, the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels knew they had to play nearly perfect baseball to earn a victory over the University School of Jackson Bruins.
But the ace up the Bruins sleeve, pitcher Ryan Rolison, was dealing the entire night at Rebel Field helping USJ earn a 2-0 and take a one-game lead over TRA in the league standings.
The defending Division II-A State champions jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff hitter Brandon Hauswald was hit by a pitch from TRA ace Gil Erwin. Then USJ’s Brandon Mileham moved Hauswald over with a sacrifice bunt.
An Erwin walk to Logan Carey placed runners at first and third for the Bruins. Then a balk allowed USJ’s first run to cross the plate making the score 1-0.
The score became 2-0 seconds later when Bruin Garrett Guymon smacked a single to drive in a runner.
“You always want to put up a zero in the top of the first,” TRA Skipper Brad Smith said. “That way you’ve got seven at-bats to their six. We hit the lead-off guy and then we get a walk. Then he balks, which is uncharacteristic of him. That was the difference. It changed the whole concept of what we were trying to do.”
Erwin settled down and struck out the next USJ batter and a ground ball ended the first inning.
From the first inning until the final out, Erwin matched Rolison pitch for pitch. The difference was Rolison only walked one batter in the first inning. The Bruin ace struck out one Rebel and recorded two groundball outs in the frame.
Rolison survived a couple of Rebel threats in his complete game shutout. After the first inning Erwin neutralized the Bruins with his array of pitches.
“He pitched his butt off and competed for us,” Smith said of Erwin. “We just ran into an arm today which is pretty dog-gone good. He’s not an Ole Miss commitment for no reason.
“We knew that coming in and he is good. In a ball game like this, you can’t give the other team free runs like we did in the first,” he continued. “A lot of the time, you’re digging yourself a deep hole you just can’t get out of.”
The Rebels looked to avoid another setback against USJ in the rematch the following night. With both squads chasing St. George’s in the standing, Game Two between the Rebels and Bruins was crucial.
TRA had the double challenge of trying to win the game to tie the overall standings and earn the victory by more than 2 runs to get the tiebreaker.
“My guys are competing,” Smith concluded. “We didn’t lose tonight because of a lack of effort. The guys are competing and trying to do what we’re asking them to do. Sometimes you run into an arm you don’t have an answer for and we didn’t have one tonight.”