Green Wave overcome 6-run deficit; Royals outlast Greenville
MALDEN -- Nobody in a Malden baseball uniform felt worse than Pete Brown after the first inning Monday.
The junior started, gave up five earned runs and only recorded the first two outs as East Carter jumped out to a commanding lead. But when his team rallied to tie the game and put the go-ahead run on third with two outs in the top of the seventh, he delivered.
On the first pitch, Brown smacked a hard-hit grounder to the left side and beat out the throw at first base to drive in the game-winner as the fourth-seeded Green Wave overcame a six-run deficit to upset the top-seeded Redbirds 9-8 and reach the MSHSAA Class 3 District 2 championship game.
"I honestly thought I had lost it for us, so when I came up in the seventh, there was a little bit of a redemption feeling," said Brown, who also drove in Malden's first run of the game with a single in the top of the first inning. "I knew I just had to get on base, put the ball in play and good things were going to happen."
The victory sends the Green Wave to the title game against second-seeded Twin Rivers at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"You could tell he was down on himself but he eventually picked his head up," Malden coach Tim Harmon said of Brown. "Pete came through, made it a tough play on him and I just couldn't be happier for all the guys."
Malden (13-14) will go for its second district title in three seasons while East Carter (14-5) goes home early for the second straight year after giving up its largest lead this season.
"I think the momentum shifted, we thought we were good to go and we just kind of laid off and let it happened," East Carter coach Scott Henfling said. "We've done that a couple times where we think we've got a comfortable lead but it doesn't happen that way and we just let them back in."
Cordell Kilgore led off the seventh with a single and advanced to third on Dee Triplett's sacrifice fly. Brown's grounder to the shortstop took a sharp hop which was bobbled allowing the go-ahead run to score as Brown beat the throw to cap Malden's rally.
"It looked like he just tried to throw it before he caught it and it cost us a few steps," Henfling said. "It's unfortunate."
The Green Wave had an error of their own in the first and general sloppiness from Brown, who walked three of the first four he faced. East Carter took a commanding 6-1 lead in the blink of an eye with two RBI doubles and a run-scoring single.
Tye Miller replaced Brown and needed four pitches to get a groundout and end Malden's nightmare start. He settled in with a scoreless second inning but ran into trouble in the third as Hunter Berry stroked a single up the middle to push it to 7-1.
Malden chipped away with three runs in the fourth on an RBI from Cordell Kilgore and a two-run single off the bat of Triplett to cut it to 7-4. But Malden's pitching woes returned as Miller lost control with four straight walks to begin the fourth, including a bases-loaded free-pass to Cody Hampton for an 8-4 advantage.
It chased Miller from the game but brought in Triplett, who provided some consistency. The junior sat down the next 11 batters he faced as his team clawed back into the game.
Triplett finished the game with 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief, giving up no hits, striking out seven and walking two to pick up the win on the mound.
"It wasn't the way I drew it up having to use three pitchers, but no bigger job than Dee Triplett coming in and holding them at bay," Harmon said. "He came in there and just slammed the door."
Despite remaining in a four-run hole, the Green Wave seemed to gain energy from Triplett's play, and that turned into a run in the fifth, with Gavin Bristow sending an RBI double to left-center to trim the deficit to 8-5.
Malden got its biggest offensive spark an inning later with four consecutive singles, including the last two from Case McCormack and Shay Amoss to pull the Green Wave within 8-7.
Bristow followed with a grounder that was fielded by East Carter's first baseman and thrown home to get the lead runner, McCormack. The senior, however, slid under the tag to tie the game and give Brown and the Green Wave one last shot at redemption.
"After the first inning of course it felt bleak but I still felt we could put something together," Harmon said. "Finally, they made a couple questionable defensive plays and we finally got a couple of big hits and a couple of hustle-it-out hits to make this a really exciting win."