Piedmont scored first on a two-out RBI single to right field in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Dillon Terry’s hit scored Payton Young from second base after Young doubled to centerfield with one out. The Bulldogs sent seven men to the plate in the inning but left the bases loaded.
In the fifth, a leadoff single to center by Cade Bradley seemed to have Piedmont in business again against Mars Hill left-hander Thomas Burrows, already signed by Alabama for next year. Matt Strott’s sacrifice bunt moved Bradley to second base. Bradley reached third on a ground ball to the right side but Mars Hill intentionally walked Young and a ground ball to short ended the threat.
Bradley and Strott opened the Piedmont first with an infield single and a sacrifice bunt but Bradley was stranded at second. Caleb Adams’ one-out single in the second also failed to produce a run.
In the third game, Bulldogs coach James Blanchard pitched senior Terry, who won the second game with a 1-0 pitching gem.
“Dillon’s really had success his last three outings but we’re just so much better defensively when Cade’s at shortstop,” Blanchard said. “When Cade isn’t on the mound, he’s really concentrating on his hitting and we need Cade to hit. When Cade hits we all hit.”
For five innings, it looked as if Terry might have another 1-0 victory. Young threw an aggressive Mars Hill runner out at the plate for the second out of the second inning and Terry ended the threat with a strikeout. In the third, Burrows hit the ball sharply but right at Adams at second base and lined into a double play.
A single with one out, an outfield error with two down and a triple that kept carrying into the gap in right center put the Panthers up 2-1 in the sixth. Mars Hill scored an insurance run in the seventh on back-to-back two-out doubles.
Piedmont ended 26-11 after losing the 2, 3, 4 and 5 hitters from last year’s 3A runner-up team.
“Nobody really counted us in this year. I did because I know how these seniors are,” Blanchard said. “It was an extremely good season. You don’t want it to end like this because the way they’ve built this program, the players before and these players now, we play for a state championship every year. That’s our goal.”
The two teams split two games Friday, Mars Hill winning 4-3 and Piedmont 1-0.
Piedmont needed and got a stellar pitching effort from senior Terry in Friday’s second game to force Tuesday’s Game 3. Terry finished with eight strikeouts. He walked four and allowed just three hits. He was at his best in the late innings, protecting a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, Mars Hill put runners on second and first with no one out. Terry then fielded a sacrifice bunt attempt cleanly and threw to second base for a force out. The next batter was out on a fly ball to shallow left field.
With two out and the seventh batter in the lineup trailing in the count two strikes to one ball, the Mars Hill runner on first broke for second base then stopped, hoping to draw a throw in his direction.
“Coach (Blanchard) had been telling us that they would try late steals and double steals and we had practiced it during the week so we’d be ready for something like that,” Terry said.
He stepped toward the runner between first and second before the runner at third started home.
“I was waiting and as soon as I heard him yell, ‘Home,’ I just turned around and threw it, hoping I threw it somewhere near there,” Terry said.
Terry’s throw and the runner arrived at the plate at almost the same moment. Catcher Strott made the tag but the slide took Strott’s glove hand out of the plate umpire’s view. When Strott showed his mitt, with the ball, the runner was out and the threat ended.
“I had the ball the whole time. I knew that he was going to be out,” Strott said.
Batting as the home team in the second game, Mars Hill Bible had one more chance in the bottom of the seventh. A strikeout, a routine ground ball out to second baseman Adams and another strikeout ended the game.
The Bulldogs scored their run in the top of the fourth inning. Cade Bradley started the fourth with a clean single through the box and into centerfield. A sacrifice bunt by Strott moved Bradley to second. Cass McCord’s hard-hit grounder forced the Mars Hill shortstop to dive to field the ball but the throw to first was off the mark and Bradley scored on the throwing error.
In the first game, a two-out base hit by shortstop Tyler Lusk scored Collin Bradley and Adams in the second inning with the initial runs of the contest. Behind on the count 0-2, Lusk delivered a single up the middle. In the third, Cade Bradley reached on an infield error and moved to third on a base hit to right by Strott. Payton Young’s sacrifice fly made the score 3-0 Piedmont.
In the top of the fifth, two singles followed by a pair of two-out doubles produced three Mars Hill runs. Uncharacteristically, the Bulldogs helped the Panthers with two throwing mistakes. Starting pitcher Glenn Irby’s long leadoff home run to right in the seventh inning decided the game.