Woodland’s Toby Queen slides in safely ahead of the tag of charging Cass pitcher Matt Shook following a passed ball during Wednesday’s Region 7-AAAAA game. The Wildcats picked up a 5-3 home win to sweep the two-game set with the Colonels.
RANDY PARKER/THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWSPosted Wednesday, March 20, 2019 BY NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
When Woodland fell behind 2-0 to Cass in Wednesday’s home game, the Wildcats didn’t panic. In fact, Woodland seemed to finally get the jolt it needed.
It led to the Wildcats reeling off five straight runs before holding off the Colonels late to earn a 5-3 win to secure the Region 7-AAAAA series sweep of their rivals.
“It was really a repeat of Monday, the exact same situation,” Woodland interim head coach Matt Montgomery said.
Part of the Wildcats’ quick response likely stemmed from the play that ironically put them behind in the top of the fourth.
After Woodland starter Bailey Ward walked the bases loaded, Jordan Gani’s bloop hit to center field brought home two runs. However, Woodland outfielder Toby Queen made a heads-up play to throw out a runner heading to third base.
The Cass coaching staff disagreed with the call, arguing that the runner evaded the tag, but the call stood. It gave the Wildcats some life, and they responded with a two-run hit of their own.
Zach Wilson and Marco Haro singled to open the home half of the frame. Dallas Adams roped a one-out double to drive home both runners.
“They did a good job, coming out swinging and got some runs early,” Montgomery said of the visitors. “… Momentum is such a huge thing in baseball. To come back and get those right back right after that, those were huge in how the game unfolded.”
In the fifth inning, the Colonels defense started to show its youth. On a sacrifice bunt, relief pitcher Matt Shook tried to cut down the lead runner but instead threw the ball into center field.
With Peyton Posey and Queen standing at third and second, respectively, Ward dropped his own blooper into shallow center. Queen tacked on a run, when he scored on a passed ball. Haro later scored on a throwing error for Woodland’s third run (second unearned) of the inning.
“They played well, but our mistakes gave them their runs,” Cass head coach Tim Ayers said of the Wildcats. “We had to scratch and claw for every one of ours.”
To its credit, Cass didn’t hang its head. Blaine Ingram opened the sixth with a single. He moved to second on a passed ball before scoring on Clay Means’ hard liner.
A walk to Sam Melton marked the end of Ward’s day. Ben Ammons entered in hopes of locking down his second save in three days against the Colonels.
Ammons escaped with a lineout and a groundout, but Cass threatened again in the seventh. Bryson Markley coaxed a one-out walk and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw.
Once again, Ammons, who escaped a jam in the seventh inning Monday to secure a 6-4 win, made the pitches when they counted. He struck out Shook looking and got Ingram to fly out to Queen for the final out of the game.
Offensively, Ward led Woodland (8-7, 5-3) with a 2-for-3 showing and an RBI. He went 6-for-8 in the series. Wilson and Koby Stansel each finished 1-for-2, while Haro and Adams both wound up 1-for-3.
Ward also finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched. The senior allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Ammons walked one and struck out one over 1 2/3 scoreless frames.
“Both of those guys are going to compete,” Montgomery said. “Bailey, it really wasn’t his best stuff, and he kind of labored a bit here and there. You know he’s going to go up there and give you everything he’s got. I think he was close on a lot of them.”
The sweep really puts Cass (7-9, 3-5) in a tough spot in terms of trying to qualify for the state playoffs. Then again with the number of sophomores Ayers has in his starting lineup and in his pitching rotation, the Colonels are just looking to continually improve for the future.
In that regard, Wednesday’s game went better than Monday’s loss. The two issues Ayers said cost his team earlier in the week — inability to throw first-pitch strikes and not attacking the fastball — were nowhere to be found in Game 2.
Unfortunately for Cass, defensive miscues overshadowed the positives, which included Means (2-2, BB, R), Ingram (1-3, BB, 2R) and Gani (1-3, 2RBI) starring at the plate.
“We threw way better and our approaches were a lot better,” Ayers said. “We put the barrel on the ball a lot. It was the small, little things — not hitting cutoff guys, the bunt play. Little things beat us tonight.
“We improved from the other night. We ran three sophomores on the mound and had seven sophomores in the lineup.”
While Cass enters its “bye” in the region rotation on a four-game losing skid, Woodland heads into the meat of its schedule on a winning streak of the same length. Next up are two-game sets with Carrollton and Villa Rica ahead of a spring break trip to Florida for the adidas Beach Blast.
“Any time you’ve got momentum, it’s great,” Montgomery said. “But we’ve got to worry about tomorrow when it’s here, and then after that, we’ll worry about the next one. You can’t start thinking ahead. You have to compete every pitch, every play, and then let the chips fall where they may.”