The term walk-off can bring a great sense of enjoyment for one team, while it can be agonizing for another.
The Warren County High School baseball team got the short end on Monday night as White County defeated the Pioneers in nine innings 8-7 when Logan Hicks hit a walk-off home run.
Warren County and White County needed two extra innings to settle the battle between district rivals, but the Warriors got the last at-bat and it proved to be the difference. Hicks hit a solo home run off Spencer Pryor with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to drop the Pioneers to 1-6 in district play this season.
Warren County came into the game in a battle with the Warriors for fourth place in District 6-AAA. Two wins in the series for the Pioneers would mean coach Joey Haston’s team would host the district tournament play-in game.
It looked like the Pioneers were poised to pull off the feat when they opened the game with three runs. Logan Walker ignited the rally when he hit a triple to score Dylan Barnes. It was followed by a RBI single by Austin Panter.
Senior Caleb Northcutt capped the promising start with a double to bring around Panter and put Warren County up 3-0.
The lead didn’t even last an inning though. White County answered with four runs in the bottom of the first, although the Warriors managed only one hit off starter Micah McColloch.
Two errors and one other defensive miscue led to White County plating four runs and taking a one-run lead after a wild first inning.
The defensive lapses were something coach Haston thought changed the complexion of the game.
“We started off really well. The offense had a great performance in the first inning,” said Haston. “Then we had some struggles on defense. The mental errors were very costly.”
White County built its lead to two with a run in the bottom of the fifth, then the Pioneer bats woke up again.
Warren County took the lead back in the sixth with three runs. Brett Mullican, batting in the nine hole, came up with a two-run double to tie the game at five, then was brought around on a single by senior Christian Gonzalez.
McColloch was one batter away from making the one-run lead hold up in the seventh, but a two-out walk gave the Warriors hope.
With a runner on first, Connor Sparkman doubled into the right-field gap. The shot tied the game at seven.
Warren County answered back quickly, plating a run in the top of the eighth. It was the bottom of the order making things happen once again, as Caleb Underhill walked to begin the inning and Daulton Foster followed with a single.
Mullican bunted to move both into scoring position and Gonzalez came up with his third hit of the game to score Underhill. Foster also tried to score on the hit into center field, but was thrown out at home. Coach Haston didn’t regret the decision to send Foster.
“I would send Daulton there 10 times out of 10,” said Haston. “Their guy just made a perfect throw.”
McColloch came back out in the eighth to try to protect a one-run Pioneer lead, but the junior captain quickly ran into trouble. McColloch gave up a lead-off single, but followed it with a fly out.
A double to the next batter tied the game however and led Haston to make a pitching change. Pryor came in and fought out of a bases-loaded jam to give the Pioneers life going into the ninth. Warren County went down in order.
Pryor didn’t looked bothered by the pressure situation to begin the bottom of the inning. The junior got a pop up, then followed it with a strikeout.
It was just one missed spot which doomed the Pioneers in the end. Pryor left one over the plate to Hicks and knew instantly it was over.
It was the sudden ending which caught coach Haston off guard, especially considering the resiliency his team played with throughout the game.
“We kept battling and kept answering everything they did,” said Haston. “Ultimately, it came down to one pitch.”
The Pioneers were scheduled to take on White County last night at Patrick Ramsey Field, but the game was rained out. The rescheduled date has yet to be determined.