By Reed DeSalvo \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star
Enterprise High School’s Garrett Moore scampered home from third base following a wild pitch by Union High School’s Dustin Bates to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 win in Game 3 of the best-of-three series, and to send Enterprise into the South State championship series against Taylorsville High School.
After dropping Game 2 of the series earlier in the day, 3-2, Enterprise managed to edge Union for the series win.
“I’m extremely proud of my kids,” Enterprise coach John Welch said. “We kept fighting back and kept battling. To lose Game 2 (of the series) after winning last night (9-8) and found a way to battle and win. This says a lot about our kids. This is exciting for our community, and for our program and this town. I’m just so excited for my kids. They have busted their butts from day 1 with one goal, to get to this point and continue winning.”
The two District 5-2A rivals have now squared off five times this season, with each game being decided by one run, including four walk-off wins.
“There couldn’t have been a better series played in the state playoffs of Mississippi this year,” Union coach Dustin Hamrick said. “If anybody argues against that, then I don’t know who their watching. This couldn’t have been more evenly matched between two teams. It was just unbelievable competition.”
Added Welch, “Union is a great baseball team. To have a team in your division that battles with you the way they did ... Every game was important and every game matters, and that’s huge for both programs. Coach Hamrick runs an excellent, top notch program, and both teams competed extremely hard.”
GAME 3 OF SERIES
In the night cap, the Enterprise hitters came through in the clutch, notching two two-out run-producing hits, including a double by Brady Bilelo in the fourth inning that scored two runs to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
“We talk all the time about two-out hits winning games,” Welch said. “That’s where you win games. The (team) who can execute that the best usually wins the game.”
The Bulldogs (24-6-1) would cling to the two-run advantage until the top of the seventh inning when Union would mount a rally.
A single and a walk to begin the frame gave the Yellowjackets the scoring opportunity. Will Kennedy drove in both runs with a single to tie the game, 3-3.
“Four seniors were due up that inning, and I let them swing away,” Hamrick said. “All four of them had great at-bats and helped us tie the game.”
In the bottom of the inning, Justin McCoy reached base after being hit by a pitch. Moore pinch ran for McCoy and advanced to second following Bilelo’s sacrifice bunt. Moore eventually reached third after a wild pitch, and scampered home following another wild pitch for the series-winning run.
“(Bilelo’s) bunt gave us a chance to win the ball game,” Welch said. “We get a runner in scoring position and we get a chance to win the game.”
Game 2 OF SERIES
In the first game Tuesday, the Bulldogs grabbed an early 1-0 advantage in the top of the first inning, Bilelo led the game off with a double to the right-centerfield gap. Bilelo scampered home following a throwing error by Union first baseman Ryan Basinger, who was attempting to throw out Bilelo at third base following a ground out by Hunter Harper.
But the Yellowjackets answered the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame. Paul White opened with a triple to right field and later scored on Austin Hood’s single up the middle.
“That set the tone,” Hamrick said. “We knew it was going to be a low scoring game, so that mattered a lot. The extra base mattered. That’s what these games have come down to. Every play has been magnified.”
The two teams would remain tied, 1-1, until the fourth inning when Union broke the deadlock with a pair of runs.
In that rally, Grant Gibbs led off with a double and reached third following a sacrifice bunt by Will Kennedy. Walker Kelly drove Gibbs in with a single to give the Yellowjackets a 2-1 lead. The inning was capped off by White who laced a single to left that scored Kelly.
From there, Jake Rawson would limit Enterprise to just one run to give Union the win and force a third and decisive game.
“That’s what he’s done all year,” Hamrick said. “The defense played great behind him, and we did what we needed to win Game 2. We said it last night, just win one game, and that’s what we were able to do and force a do-or-die game.
“I wouldn’t have expected anything different,” Hamrick said.
McCutcheon managed to keep Enterprise within striking distance, throwing out three different Yellowjackets on the base paths.
“He’s good back there,” Welch said. “He’s done a great job all season in throwing out runners, and keeping the running game down.”
Union finishes the season with a 16-13 record overall.
“We have five seniors and they have been unbelievable seniors,” Hamrick said. There is just no quit in this team. There hasn’t been a day all year long that I had to get on these guys. They came to work every day, and it showed the way they played this series and this season.”
The Enterprise versus Taylorsville matchup is slated to begin Friday at Taylorsville with Game 2 at 7 p.m. Saturday at Enterprise.
“I know a lot about Taylorsville from my team previously at West Jones High School,” Welch said. “They’re a great squad. They are the defending state champions. They pitch and hit it well. I expect to face a very good baseball team who has been there before.”