Korey Austin scored what proved to be the winning run after Nick Rau walked with bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the Thomson High Bulldogs a come-from-behind 4-3 Region 3-AAA victory over the visiting Liberty County Panthers last Saturday night.
It marked the Bulldogs' fist region win of the season. Overall, they sported an overall record of 5-2 before having played the Jefferson County Warriors on Tuesday night. Thomson will take on the Washington County Golden Hawks in another key region game on Friday.
The Bulldogs were supposed to have battled Richmond Hill on the road last Friday night, but because of heavy rain, the game was canceled. It will be made up later this season.
"I was as proud as I could be of this crowd for coming back and winning the game," said Thomson head coach Jason Osborn. "We weren't at our best, but we never gave up and found a way to win it in the seventh. I think that says a lot about this kids on this team and that they want to win."
Coach Osborn was ejected in the top of the sixth after getting into an argument with the home plate umpire about a dispute call the official made regarding a ball out of play that allowed a Liberty County to advance from first to second base. The Thomson coach contended that the home plate official wasn't in position to make the call and that it should have been made by the fielding umpire, because it was his call to make.
"I regret that it happened, but that was a terrible call," lamented coach Osborn.
The ejection caused coach Osborn to miss the game against Jefferson County on Tuesday. He'll have to sit out the game against Washington County, too. Assistant Head Coach Aaron Hall replaced him in the game against Liberty County and did the same thing in the game against the Warriors on Tuesday. Coach Hall will guide the Bulldogs in the game against Washington County.
Thomson, the defending region champions, trailed after the first half inning when Liberty's Eddie Chipple hit a solo-homer over the right centerfield fence off Thomson starting junior pitcher Abram Cartledge. The Bulldogs came right back in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1 as Rau led off with a solo-shot over the centerfield fence.
The Panthers tallied two more runs in the third to take a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of that same inning, the Bulldogs struck for another run to keep it a one-run game, 3-2. Junior centerfielder Dontavis "Juicy" Brown led off with a single and later stole second base before first baseman Andy Grimaud reached on a single that Liberty County centerfielder Cameron Harris couldn't catch up to. Brown, who had gone to third base on the play scored on a steal.
The Panthers threatened again in the sixth, as a cold rain, accompanied by strong winds, invaded the Thomson field. Cartledge, who worked five complete innings on the mound, was replaced by Rau after hitting the first batter he faced that inning. Cartledge struck out seven batters, walked five and gave up four hits.
When Cartledge left the mound, he began playing first base. Rau, meanwhile, came in and was able to work out of jam, getting the first batter he faced out on strikes. The next two batters reached -- one on a fielder's choice and the other on a single before Rau struck out Harris to end the threat with runners at second and third bases.
In the seventh, Rau struck out the side, even though one runner reached on a walk and another via a fielder's choice.
The game got dramatic in the bottom of the seventh, as the Bulldogs seemed determined to pull out a win.
Second baseman Cody Corbitt drew a walk to get things started. He was lifted for Josh Jones, who became the pinch runner. Jones later went to second base on a wild pitch before junior right fielder Jesse Usry popped out attempting to bunt Jones over. Thomson's chances of winning the game that inning drew dim when Brown struck out for the second out. A ray of hope shined, though, when Grimaud drew a walk. He was lifted for pinch runner Korey Austin. Senior third baseman Cody Ewest, whose bat has been silent somewhat of late, followed by smashing a double into left field that allowed Jones to race home. It tied the game at 3-3.
Cartledge kept the rally alive when he was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Rau followed by drawing a walk, too, which walked in Austin and allowed the Bulldogs to win.
Liberty County starting pitcher Joe Watkins worked six and two-thirds innings. During that time, Watkins struck out 12 Thomson batters, walked two and yielded six hits. He was relieved by Chipple with the score tied at 3-3 and two outs.