Austin Anderson really had nothing to smile about most of Tuesday night.
There weren’t enough positive plays made by the senior to boost his confidence. Wetumpka starter Dalton Shepherd kept him hitless through three at-bats, and his third-inning fielding error contributed to Stanhope Elmore staring at the negative end of the scoreboard.
That would all change with one swing.
Anderson lofted a go-ahead sacrifice fly to propel the Mustangs to a 4-3 victory over rival Wetumpka in the opener of their best of three series in Class 6A, Area 7.
“We put some hits together there late and made it happen,” said Stanhope coach Scott Johnson, whose squad will travel to Wetumpka for Friday’s doubleheader at Bazemore Field. “This is a big win and we’ll enjoy it now, but we got to get back to work to get ready for Friday.”
In the third, Ryan Crockett’s two-run double off the fence in center created a 3-1 advantage and also helped supply some breathing room for Shepherd, who was able to keep Stanhope Elmore (9-12, 2-1) relatively quiet most of the evening.
“I thought (Shepherd) did a great job of keeping us of balanced,” Johnson said.
The Mustangs finally got something going at the plate three frames later. Chance Kessinger singled and Tyler Mathews walked to chase Shepherd in favor of Hunter Stubbs, who was greeted by Dylan Sexton’s base knock that loaded the bags with the Indians up, 3-2.
Andrew Casey kept the rally going with an RBI single to set the stage for Anderson. The AUM signee battled Stubbs for several pitches before launching one deep enough to bring home the eventual game-winning run.
“You can’t control what happened in the past,” Anderson said. “You just got to go out there and forget about the last at-bat. We just play for the now and forget about last inning or the inning before that.”
Wetumpka coach Russ Brooks believes the loss is something to build upon.
“We should grow up from this,” the first-year coach said. “We got six guys who are either 10th or 9th-graders on this varsity team and we sat there and went toe-to-toe with a team that’s much older than us. … We just got to learn to finish the game and hold the lead.”
Stanhope’s Drake Cabe singled, double and drove in two runs, while teammate Blaine Milam picked up the win in relief.