BROWNSVILLE – Haywood’s baseball team had a list of goals before the season started in March.
Win District 15-AA was on that list, and so was winning Region 8-AA.
They accomplished both of those, and it took beating Ripley to accomplish both of those feats.
“Ripley is a good team, and any game against them for us is a big game no matter what’s on the line,” said Haywood head coach Tyler Newman. “We knew if we wanted to do those things, beating Ripley would probably have to be a part of that process.”
All five games between the neighboring purple rivals – two regular season games, two games in the district tournament and Wednesday’s region championship – were competitive. Haywood’s 4-3 win to secure a home game in the Class AA sectional Thursday might’ve been the most competitive.
“This was my first time pitching against Ripley,” said Haywood starting pitcher Josh Coburn. “But they’re a team we knew we’d have to be ready to play our best against to win.”
Ripley scored the first run in the top of the first, and Haywood matched it in the bottom of the inning on a passed ball with a runner on third.
Ripley went back up 2-1, but that lead didn’t last long as Dustin Staggs hit a double to left-centerfield to bring a runner home from second.
Ripley got another run in the fourth inning and held it for nearly two full innings before Staggs approached the plate in the bottom of the fifth with no runners on base. He connected at the plate, and the ball landed outside the left-centerfield fence – just on the other side of where the double landed on his previous at-bat – for a solo home run and a tie game.
“I’m pretty familiar with their pitcher tonight because I played travel ball with him last summer,” Staggs said. “But we needed hits tonight because this is a big game and a team we like to beat.”
Ripley nearly took the lead back in the top of the sixth when a runner on third ran home on a grounder to shortstop with two outs. The throw home was a close one, but the umpire called the runner out to end the inning and Ripley’s scoring threat.
That out proved costly for the Tigers in the bottom of the sixth when Haywood’s Tillman McRae got on base when he was hit by a pitch. After moving around the bases on a fielding error to third, he made it home when Coburn struck out swinging but ran to first base because the catcher dropped the ball.
McRae saw the opening to run home and take the lead, and he barely beat the throw for the Haywood lead.
Haywood shut Ripley down with one baserunner in the top of the seventh, but the Tomcats recorded three outs before the Tigers got close to tying the game.
Up next for Haywood is Lexington, the Region 7-AA runner-up.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751