Down to its final three outs and trailing by two, the Hoggard baseball team rallied for three runs on two hits and two errors in the bottom of the seventh to keep the season alive as the Vikings picked up a 4-3 walk-off win over Purnell Swett to open the 4A playoffs on Tuesday night.
“Our kids battled the whole way and so did their guys,” said Hoggard Coach Jeep St. Ledger. “It was a heck of a high school baseball game. We didn’t get a lot of chances early and that last inning was a hum dinger.”
With two outs in the seventh and Sam Schmidt on first, J.P Graham singled to right and Brad Pennington extended the frame after hitting a hot shot to second, which was mishandled and allowed Schmidt to score. Following the play at the plate, Graham slid in safely at third base as Cal Hunt dropped the ball after applying the tag, which would have been the third and final out of the ballgame.
A base hit by Brandon Boone followed to tie the game at three and Pennington got a good read on a ball in the dirt to score the game-winner off a wild-pitch.
“Our base running stepped up I thought tonight,” said St. Ledger. “You had Sam [Schmidt] take two bases on the ball Penny [Brad Pennington] drilled to second. Sam kept going around because the second baseman couldn’t find it and J.P. Graham is following to third. He made a great slide and I know it was a bang-bang play. I’m just glad the ball dropped to be honest with you.”
Graham paced the Vikings lineup in the leadoff spot with a 3-for-4 day at plate and run scored. Boone finished with an RBI, while Luke McKeithan, Brett Harms and Rob Wilkerson each added a base hit.
Hoggard played a solid defensive game with three standout plays that stood out from the rest. McKeithan started the front end of a 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play in the bottom of the second. The Vikings cut off a run in the third on a single to center when Graham fired a strike to first baseman Mitch Cadby, who made a relay throw for the tag out at the plate.
Pennington made a fully extended diving play up the middle and jumped to his feet to throw out Ironeyes Locklear at first.
“We made some key plays in the field to get us in it,” said St. Ledger. “We had trouble getting guys in early after moving them into scoring position. When we did get the leadoff guys on we couldn’t get them in.”
Pennington got the victory after pitching a scoreless seventh. Boone received a no-decision after the Vikings’ starter allowed three runs on four hits over six innings of work. The senior struck out seven, but walked six, which hurt him in the third as the Rams were able to take a 2-0 lead.
Wilkerson scored in the fifth to cut the deficit to one, but Purnell Swett answered with one in the sixth to set up the dramatic finish.
Eighth-seeded Hoggard moved to 15-7 overall and host No. 9 Leesville Road on Friday, May 15.
Joe Catenacci is a sports writer at Port City Daily and host of The Sports Connection on 103.7 FM at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Mondays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.