The possibility of Autauga Academy returning to Paterson Field for the AISA Class AA state baseball championship series appeared bleak.
Ace pitcher Rocky Milton was on the losing end in Wednesday’s series opener, and teammate Zach Paulene seemed to be headed down the same path after just facing a couple of Lowndes Academy hitters in the nightcap.
“Things just weren’t going our way early,” Generals coach Joe Faulk said.
But it’s not about how you start, but rather how you finish.
Autauga rallied from an early deficit to post an 8-3 victory over Lowndes in Game 2 for the doubleheader split, forcing a decisive third game at 4 p.m. today.
“They battled. They could’ve easily quit after our No. 1 lost in Game 1, but they kept chipping away at the lead,” Faulk said. “They want to make it back to Paterson Field. They never gave up, and they were chipping away until we took the lead.”
Autauga’s Clayton Driver and Lowndes’ Toby King will pitch today.
“We didn’t throw our No. 2 because we figured this might happen,” Rebels head coach Shane Moye said. “Our guys are extremely confident. We have a senior on the mound who has carried us before. He won a Game 3 last week, so we feel the game is in our favor.”
Driver’s run-scoring single off Lowndes starter Wade Howard snapped a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the third inning. The Generals four runs in the sixth to guarantee their season would continue.
Paulene, a right-handed sophomore, as tagged for three runs in the first inning before regrouping to shut the door the rest of the way.
“Zach’s been in this situation before,” Faulk said. “Any time his number gets called, he responds. Tonight, he probably pitched his best game of the season. We’re glad to have him because he stepped up when we really needed him.”
In Game 1, Milton issued his second free pass in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases with none out and the score tied at 4-4. Reliever Kyle Chandler came out to get the first out, but the right-hander couldn’t slow Seth Senn from slapping a walk-off single to right for a 5-4 victory.
Moye believe his team’s ability to remain patient proved to be the difference.
“They guys really worked hard on trying to win the game,” he said. “We told them to be patient because the pitcher is getting tired and he’s thrown a lot of pitches so let’s leave them standing on the field.”
B.T. Seymore had an RBI single and Dawson Moncrief stroked a two-run double in the fifth to set the stage for the series opener’s dramatic finish.