By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Brighton Cardinals entered the 2016 District 13-3A Baseball Tournament feeling good as the No. 1 seed.
But the top-seeded Cardinals also had a nervous feeling in their stomachs Friday afternoon entering the first round contest against the No. 4-seeded Hardin County Tigers. The reason for the slight concern was the host venue for the 2016 tournament — Munford Baseball Field.
“We don’t like coming in here,” Brighton Skipper Michael Wickersham acknowledged. “This place we’ve talked about all week. A fly ball here it can change the dynamic of the game. They have a hitter’s ball park.
“We get nervous coming here because were a gap-to-gap kind of team,” he continued. “We’re not a home run, pull hitting team. Those big corn-feed guys over there, that’s all they do is swing it hard.”
Hardin County jacked two home runs in the contest including a seventh inning homer to tie the game at 9-9.
That set the table for Brighton freshman Dalton Rushing. The Cardinal catcher smacked a single to right field to drive in the winning run giving Brighton a 10-9 victory.
“It started off slow,” Rushing said. “We had to rally up some hits in the third and fourth. LaDarius’ bomb to dead center did help us out a lot. We were able to tie it up. It was a tight game and a big fight.”
Brighton’s bats did have some pop featuring a LaDarius “Dee” Williams’ solo homer to centerfield in the third inning to break a 3-3 tie.
The Tigers were not phased by the 4-3 deficit scoring 4 runs in the fourth inning including a three-run homer.
The Cardinals rallied to tie the game at 7-7 in the bottom half of the fourth. After Rushing struck out on a high fastball, his teammate Matthew Smith stepped to the plate.
Smith drove a double to the outfield and cleared the loaded bases. While the team celebrated, Rushing was trying to keep his head up.
“He had a chance in the sixth inning to break things wide open,” Wickersham said. “But he struck out on a high one. I told him to stay up because he would get another chance.”
It appeared for a moment Rushing wouldn’t need another chance when Brighton pitcher Matthew Jacome gave himself run support with a two-run single in the sixth inning. Jacome’s hit put Brighton ahead 9-7.
Then came the big fly for Hardin County in the top of the seventh to tie the game.
The Cardinals had to rally one more time. With a runner on second base, the Tigers elected to intentionally walk Williams to face Rushing.
“I felt disrespected,” Rushing said. “And I’ll tell you the truth, I was looking for the fence. I thought in my head when the pitch was coming, ‘I just need to get a base hit for a win.’”
Like Coach Wick predicted, Rushing had another chance and he came through with the winning single to send the Cardinals to the District Semifinals. The Cardinals were defeated in the next two games of the tournament.