An uncharacteristic outing on the bump created a nightmarish scenario in Game 1 of a best-of-three series out at Shelby Aulds Field Friday night. But a poised outing from a freshman in relief followed by a seven-run fifth inning provided quite an eventful second-round matchup between No. 2 (23-7) West Monroe and No. 18 (21-10) Parkway.
Pretty fun to watch when your team comes out on top of a 9-7 contest, right?
“It was fun in the fifth inning…” West Monroe head coach Wade Simoneaux said, reluctantly.
A rocky first inning for Drew Blaylock featured back-to-back free passes to start the game. A throwing error in the midfield didn’t help his cause, and a wild pitch put West Monroe in a 1-0 hole right off the bat. Blaylock got out of the jam by picking off a runner at second before he got a strikeout and flyout to limit the damage. Blaylock threw 27 pitches in the first.
West Monroe fans were right back to holding their breath in the second inning, as Parkway loaded the bases with a walk and two singles. With two outs, Parkway's Landon Levy got ahold of one and gave it a drive to the wall, but Reed Eason was there to make the catch for the third out.
Blaylock’s day ended after the second inning, as he walked the leadoff batter and surrendered a single in the next at-bat. Blaylock, who had a three-game stretch earlier this season where he allowed one run and two hits, had trouble locating in Game 1.
“He muscled his way through the first two innings,” Simoneaux said. “It could have gotten out of hand. It could have been four or five runs (given up). I was contemplating whether to take him out before 34 pitches to have him available for tomorrow, but (Trey) Hawsey came in and did a heck of a job for us.”
Hawsey entered with two on and no outs in the third inning. Hawsey walked in a run before Gabe Larry knocked in another to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
Parkway out-hit the Rebels, 11-6, in the contest.
West Monroe got its first hit of the game at an opportune time. After Eason reached on an error with two outs, Hayden Federico drilled an RBI double to hang the Rebels' first crooked number on the scoreboard. Josh Pearson followed with another RBI double to cut the deficit to one run.
Hawsey found his groove in the next few innings. The Rebels continued to make stellar plays in the field, like when Federico charged a short chopper down the third base line and delivered the throw in time in the fifth inning. That play was sandwiched between two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning that had Hawsey fist pumping off of the mound. Hawsey allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in 4.1 innings pitched.
The Rebels still needed to make a move offensively, and they did just that in the bottom half of the inning when they batted around. Beating out throws was the theme of the fifth, as Tanner Young and Kade Pittard reached on infield singles. With those two on second and third with one out, Federico laid down a squeeze bunt, which Parkway pitcher Cade Josting threw behind home plate. That allowed two runners to score for the Rebels, as West Monroe took a 4-3 advantage.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Britt Jordan crushed a bases-clearing double down the left field line. The Rebels extended their lead to 8-3 when Cole Brasher tattooed a ball to the wall. West Monroe then capped the inning with Young attempting to steal second and drawing an errant throw into the outfield, which opened the door for pinch runner Caleb Little to touch home plate.
“We have to take over games offensively,” Simoneaux said. “I think we’re capable of it. We’ve been playing too many one-run games. We have to take over these games.”
Trenton Defatta hit a 2-RBI single to draw the Panthers within four runs, and Larry hit a two-run homer on Brasher, who entered the seventh with one out.
With one on and the tying run at bat, Brasher collected himself and got back-to-back strikeouts to close the door on Parkway.
Game 2 will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Shelby Aulds Field.