By Maurice Patton
LYNNVILLE – By the end of Monday night’s play in the District 10-A baseball tournament at Richland, all three coaches were pleased with their respective teams.
Only one, however, moved into Tuesday’s championship game opposite Santa Fe.
The host Raiders dealt Mt. Pleasant a 10-0, five-inning season-ending defeat, after the Tigers sent Culleoka home with a 3-2 decision.
“Whether we win one or two games (Tuesday), I think we came out with a little more urgency, a little more concentration to make sure we did the little things right,” Richland coach Troy Hughes said after his team successfully rebounded from a 9-8, 12-inning loss Saturday to third-seeded Santa Fe by scoring in four of five at-bats against No. 2 seed Mt. Pleasant.
“We knew Santa Fe was capable of beating us. But I think it was a wakeup call for us. We didn’t do what we should have done Saturday. How are we going to respond? Are we going to hang our heads, or are we going to respond like I know we’re capable?”
Richland (19-12) scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch from Mt. Pleasant starter Hayden Holt in its half of the first inning, then capitalized on an Austin Schrengost two-run double and three Tiger errors in a three-run second inning.
Colton Trimble’s two-run base hit sparked a four-run rally in the fourth, and Jace Derryberry doubled home the decisive runs in the fifth.
“I feel like we ran out of gas a little bit – mentally, physically, both,” first-year Mt. Pleasant coach Kennedy Mathis said after his team finished 11-17. “They’re a really good ballclub. They did what they had to do to win the game. They earned it.
“Coming into the year, I don’t think anybody outside of our group believed in us. I think we proved a lot of people wrong, but this was just one step in the process. We’ve got to keep building. It took 11 guys, but we made each and every team earn it.”
Mt. Pleasant played error-free ball for six innings against Culleoka (6-16), working out of a jam that led to a 1-0 first-inning Warrior lead and scoring three runs in the third as Brady Clark’s double drove in a pair of runs before he scored on Ryan Clark’s RBI groundout.
Leading 3-1 into the seventh, the Tigers had to weather some suspense as back-to-back Codell Gilliam throwing errors helped Culleoka cut the deficit in half and put the tying run at second base before reliever Ben Newland stranded the tying and winning runs by striking out Landon Spencer to end the game.
“These guys played hard. They hit the ball,” Warriors coach Vince Springer said. “I’m as proud as I can be of these guys. At times this season, they’ve gotten down on themselves when things didn’t go their way. This time, they stayed in the game and did what they needed to do. We didn’t lose; we just ran out of innings.”
Santa Fe can clinch the tournament title and the No. 1 seed in next week’s Region 5-A tourney with a win Tuesday. If Richland wins the 5 p.m. championship game, the two would play a second contest.
Mt. Pleasant 3, Culleoka 2
C 100 000 1 – 2 3 1
M 003 000 x – 3 5 2
Ethan Hollis and Jack Luna. Andrew Cummins, Codell Gilliam (1), Brady Clark (3), Ben Newland (6) and Kevin Reed. W: Clark. L: Hollis.
Richland 10, Mt. Pleasant 0 (5 inn.)
M 000 00 – 0 2 3
R 130 42 – 10 6 0
Hayden Holt, Ryan Clark (4), Brady Clark (5) and Kevin Reed. Rob Turner and Landon Griggs. W: Turner. L: Holt.
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports