MURFREESBORO – Oakland led 6-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, but Blackman never quit.
The Blaze scored seven runs in the last two innings — including five in the bottom of the seventh — to defeat the Patriots 7-6, evening up their District 7-AAA three-game series.
The two meet at 6 p.m. today at Oakland’s Mack Hawks Field in the decisive game.
Nathan Luther, who came into the game in relief of Blackman starter Matt Harnish, had the game-winning hit, singling to center field to score Donnell Bailey in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.
“I saw where (Oakland reliever Justin Wilson) walked the last couple of guys, so I was just taking pitches, trying to get a strike,” said Luther. “I was looking for a good pitch to hit, and I saw it, and I hit it.”
The Blaze (13-15, 6-11) started the seventh by getting the bases loaded with one out. Oakland pitcher Jace Hawkins hit D.J. Wright with a pitch, forcing home a run to make it 6-3.
Hawkins exited, and Wilson came in to pitch for Oakland (8-20, 4-13).
After fouling off several pitches, Bailey drew a walk to force in another run and cut the gap to 6-4. Alex Finney also drew a walk, and the lead was down to one run.
Cole Brawley grounded to Oakland shortstop Chase Smith and the Patriots tried to turn two, but Brawley beat the throw to first, and the tying run scored on the play.
Luther stepped up to the plate, batting in the eighth spot, and singled home the winning run.
“I’m very proud of Nathan Luther,” said Blackman coach Justin Entrekin. “He stepped up in a big situation. And all the bats before him were huge. So this was truly a team effort tonight.”
The Blaze only managed three hits in the first five innings off Oakland starter Jackson Cauthen. But his pitch count got high in the sixth, the Blaze managed two runs off him off three hits and an error, and the Patriots went to their bullpen.
“He was struggling a little bit in the latter innings,” said Oakland coach Mack Hawks. “Six-run lead, you go to the pen, you feel like you’re in good shape.”
Smith was 3-for-5 in the game with a double. The Patriots had 10 hits in the game.
Blackman 7, Oakland 6
Oakland 110 103 0 – 6 10 4
Blackman 000 002 5 – 7 8 5
Jackson Cauthen, Cameron Newman (6), Jace Hawkins (7), Justin Wilson (7) and Justin Wilson and Cameron Arms (7). Matt Harnish, Nathan Luther (6) and Austin Chessor. WP: Luther. LP: Wilson.