The way the Bulldogs ended Game 1 of their Class 3A title series against Trinity leaves reason to believe they could finish their stay here happier than their recent county predecessors.
“That’s the thing with these guys right here. They never quit,” Piedmont coach James Blanchard said after Piedmont’s 5-4 loss Wednesday. “I say this time and time again. As long as we’ve got one more swing, I never fear that we’re going to get beat.”
To win the best-of-3 series and bring home the Bulldogs’ first state baseball title, they’ll have to win two games today at Riverwalk Stadium.
It sounds daunting, for sure, because that tends not to happen here. At least, it hasn’t happened recently for the teams our county has sent to Montgomery.
Title series open on Paterson Field, and Oxford showed a case of the yips on that field in 2009. The Yellow Jackets lost 4-1 and ended up being swept by Auburn.
Alexandria had a similar night on Paterson Field in 2010, losing 11-1. The Valley Cubs ended up swept by UMS-Wright.
The old diamond in downtown Montgomery seems to become a Bermuda Triangle for county teams with rosters unaccustomed to the state finals atmosphere.
Piedmont is past the third round for the first time, and Paterson pinched again Wednesday.
The Bulldogs, which had won all eight of their postseason games before coming here, committed three errors. Add pitcher Joel Ray’s early walks, and Trinity had help scoring four runs in the first three innings.
“I’d guess you’d say the first two or three innings, we were pretty nervous,” senior second baseman Chris Strott said. “Everybody was uptight, just wanting to play good ball, and you saw what happened.
“We made a couple of errors which, to me, cost us the ballgame.”
It wasn’t just the Paterson Pinch that got Piedmont. It was the Paterson lights, as well.
Two balls to the outfield — one that fell in front of right fielder Dillon Terry and another over his head — resulted in Trinity runs for leads of 4-1 and 5-3.
Wednesday’s game at Paterson Field was not only Piedmont’s first game in a state-final series, it was the Bulldogs’ first playoff game away from its new home field, which they opened this season.
“The lighting out here, I kind of looked up, it’s kind of different than what we’re (used to) playing,” Blanchard said. “We’re kind of used to playing under our lights and stuff, and I think the lighting had a little effect on us.
“I don’t think our outfielders misplayed it. I think the just couldn’t find the ball.”
On the upside for Piedmont, the Bulldogs found themselves in the latter innings.
They rallied with two runs in the sixth inning and one in the seventh, and they had the tying run on third base when Strott flied out to end the game.
They even seemed to adapt to Paterson, hitting where the lights seemed to bite most. Ray’s triple to bring Piedmont within 5-4 flew down the right-field line, and Strott’s fly to end the game went to right.
It’s the rally — and not the final tally — that Piedmont must carry into today’s doubleheader at Riverwalk.
“We did enough work with the bats that we should have won the game,” Strott said. “We just came away empty-handed.
“As the game went on, we talked about it, and we started feeling more comfortable. I guess we’re feeling pretty good to go into tomorrow.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.