An inning after being tagged out at the plate while trying to score from second on a wild pitch, Pace High’s Tyler Sharp stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh with another chance to win it for the Patriots.
With two outs and all the hope resting on him, Sharp worked the count to three balls and two strikes against Catholic pitcher Evans Bozeman after fouling off a fastball down the middle. The runners in motion on the pitch, Sharp kept his eye focused on Bozeman as he rocked and fired the pitch.
It was hard for Sharp not to swing at the pitch, which sailed a few inches high and inside to draw the walk and bring home the game-winning run and propel the Patriots to another thrilling 3-2 win over Catholic.
“It took everything in me not to swing at that,” Sharp said. “I saw it high and inside and at the beginning of the at-bat, I knew he was going to be wild because he had been walking people.
“I came in there and got it to 3-2 and said if it’s there I’m swinging, but I saw it a ball and I had confidence he was going to make the right call.”
Sharp was in a position to win it for Pace (11-3) because of the fact that Wesely Buckley got the bottom of the seventh started in a big way with a double down the line in left field.
J.J. Johnson was intentionally walked to set up the double play at second, and Jace Baxley loaded the bases when his grounder to first baseman Anthony Union was just deep enough to leave Union with no play.
Bozeman regained his composure by striking out Chase Lambert for the second out of the inning, but Sharp worked the count to 3-1 before fouling off a pitch to make it a full count.
“(When it was 3-1) I was looking for a pitch to hit,” Sharp said. “If it was close, I was going to try to put the ball in play. It was right down the middle, and I put a good swing on it.”
In the sixth inning, Sharp got the inning started by getting hit by a pitch. He stole second and took third on a wild pitch by Bozeman. But as he was rounding third, he saw that Bozeman was still on the mound, so he took a chance on beating Bozeman to the plate. Bozeman alertly raced to home plate and got the throw from catcher Jimmy Richardson just in time to slap down the tag on Sharp for the out.
“I saw him 60 feet from home plate and I saw the catcher back there and took a chance,” Sharp said.
The Patriots jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the hotly-contested battle between the two premier baseball programs in Pensacola by plating a run in the third inning on a Catholic error.
Colby Sweat, Austin Brooks and Greg Rengel all singled to load the bases. Catholic starter Zane Gill got Buckley to fly out to right field, and Catholic right-fielder Gavin Wehby had a chance to double Rengel up at first, but his throw back to the bag sailed over Bozeman’s head, allowing courtesy runner Austin Allen to score from third with the game’s first run.
Catholic (10-2) pushed across two runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 2-1 lead when Brandon Wiley walked and scored on Brandon Lockridge’s triple. Lockridge later scored on a wild pitch to give the Crusaders the one-run cushion.
The Patriots got one of the runs back in the bottom half of the inning, though, as Chandler Burgess singled, Sweat reached on a hit by pitch and Rengel drew the intentional walk to load the bases.
Buckley grounded it back to Gill, who got the lead run at home for the second out. But Johnson coaxed a walk from Gill to tie the game at 2-2.
“It’s an epic game always time we play,” Pace coach Charlie Warner said. “It’s always a great high school baseball game. Our kids battled. Their kids battled. We came out on top, and we’re fortunate that we did.”
Sweat went 2-for-3 to lead the Patriots, while Lockridge was 2-for-4 with a triple and RBI to pace the Crusaders.
At Pace High School
PACE 3, CATHOLIC 2
Catholic…000 020 0–2 5 2
Pace…001 010 1–3 7 0
WP: Matt McGowin (2-0) 2.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K; LP: Evans Bozeman 1.1 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 K, 3 BB.
Catholic (10-2) — Brandon Lockridge 2-4, triple, RBI; Cody Henry 1-3; Carl Gindl 1-3; Anthony Union 1-3.
Pace (11-3) — Chandler Burgess 1-3; Colby Sweat 2-3; Austin Brooks 1-4; Greg Rengel 1-3; Wesely Buckley 1-4, double, RBI; Jace Baxley 1-3.
Next:Catholic travels to Walton on Tuesday; Pace plays host to North Little Rock at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.