By Thomas Sellers Jr.
If you arrived to Miles Park Monday about 7 p.m., the scoreboard displayed a 5-run third inning for the Bolivar Central Tigers.
In the past that spelled doomed for the Millington Trojans. Despite trailing 5-0 heading into the fourth inning, the spirit in the Trojan dugout never hit full panic or total sadness.
“We were definitely down and distort,” Millington senior catcher Josh Groom acknowledged. “We didn’t have the enthusiasm. But when that first run came in, it kind of kicked up the attitude and amped us up to do better. Then we just kept on coming and coming.”
Groom’s walk in the fourth inning sparked a rally for the Trojans leading to a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over Bolivar. After Groom reached on a base-on-balls, Millington pitcher Sam Johnson singled.
Then Trojan Dean Karash extended his hitting streak to five games with a base hit to score the first run of the game for Millington.
Moments later Kaleb “Big Mack” Macklin drove in a run with a ground ball to make the score 5-2 heading into the fifth inning.
After Johnson shutdown the Tigers in the top of the fifth inning, Millington’s dugout became more vocal and energetic.
“We got down 5-0 and it was dead a little bit in the dugout,” Millington Head Coach Zane Adams said. “ A couple of my older guys were talking to them between innings. At the end of the third I said, ‘Hey guys we’ve got a lot of game left here. It’s not over.’ We chipped away and chipped away.
“Tonight was some of the best fight I’ve seen out of them this year,” he continued. “This is a good time to have it because in two weeks we’re starting districts. Now we’ve just got to take that fight, pride and want-to we had that second half of the game and just run with it.”
In the fifth inning Millington fought back with a Seth Saigeon sacrifice fly driving in a run to make the tally 5-3.
Once again Johnson helped his own cause with a single, this time plating an RBI. The Millington deficit was a single run at this point.
The Trojans finally took the lead when Dylan Doyle stroked a base hit to make the scoreboard read 6-5 in favor of Millington.
While offense gets all the headlines, Adams said defense won the game for Millington against Bolivar. In the top of the sixth inning, the Tigers had a pair of runners on base with one out. Trying to tie or take the lead, the Bolivar batter hit a laser toward the middle of the infield.
Millington’s new shortstop Will Jackson snatched up the ball and raced toward second base stepping on the bag. Then he fired the ball over to Johnson, now at first base to record the double play.
“Huge, that was big,” Adams noted. “We had our starting shortstop go down to injury. We had to move our guy Will over to shortstop who usually plays second. It was routine and he made the play. And our third baseman tonight Seth Saigeon had about three or four big plays tonight.
“He had a double play earlier in the game, bases loaded no outs in the first inning,” the Trojan Skipper recalled. “Line drive hit right to him, he lays out and tags third base. That’s two out right there. We get out of the inning with no runs. They all were on it tonight and that’s a great victory for us. You go down and you fight back, that’s what you want to see from your team as a coach.”
Millington kept swinging in the bottom of the sixth inning when Drake Shepard hit a double. Bolivar appeared to be shaken by the Trojan rally with the Tigers’ pitcher called for a pair of balks. Shepard stepped on home plate to make the score 7-5.
That gave Millington closer Chad Chadwick the extra insurance he needed to close out the seventh.
“We know we can do it,” Groom said. “Coach says if we grind and fight, we can finish things off at the every end. We have shown other teams we can do it. We’ve shown Ripley we can do it. We loss the first one to them and then the second one to them a lot closer. We battled them down to the seventh. We’ve shown Bolivar we can do it when we put our hearts out there. And that’s why we were able to beat them.”
Adams noted district play is set up as two-day series. So Tuesday presents Bolivar with a chance to avenge the defeat on its home turf.
“We’re going to their place too,” he said. “They came down here possibly thinking they were going to take a game away. We fight back and win. We’re going to their place with that chip now on their shoulders. We’re going to have to bring that intensity we had in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings in the first tomorrow. Because they’re going to have it.
“We’re at their place and they’re coming out to get us,” Adams concluded. “We just have to keep that intensity going. I’m not going to tell them to change anything. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep doing the little things. Keep making the routine plays and executing when we’re at the plate and we’re going to win games.”