Special to the Grove Sun
JAY- If ever the Jay Bulldogs needed a victory, it was on Tuesday in the opening game of the season ending summer league tournament at Trollinger-Haggard Field. And thanks to a gritty extra inning pitching performance by Ty Moore and some clutching hitting, of both the long and short variety, the home town ’Black and Gold’ were able to avenge themselves against Salina.
Moore got the Wildcats to go down in order in the top of the first and the Salina starter, Chad Backward, returned the favor to complete the scoreless opening inning. But in the top of the second, the visitors did what they appear to do best. And that was to play small ball and manufacture a run.
Ty Stewart led off the inning with the game’s first hit and advanced to second on Wes Williamson’s perfectly executed sacrifice bunt. Backward then helped his own cause when he singled Stewart home with the go ahead run.
Bulldog cleanup batter, J.J. Meeker led off the home half of the second with a single. And despite appearing to get a good jump on the pitch by Backward, Williamson, the Wildcat receiver, gunned Meeker down on a close play at second. The big Salina hurler took care of the rest with a ground out and strikeout.
Batting in Salina’s nine-hole, Brian Jenkins led off the top of the third with a ’seeing eye’ single up the middle and the visitors were back in business again. Jenkins moved up 90 feet on Jake Johnson’s sacrifice bunt and moved to third on a Dalton Daniel’s single to left field. But a misplay by the Bulldog outfielder allowed the Wildcats to put another run on the scoreboard to make it 2-0.
It was good old-fashioned payback in the top of the fourth when Williamson worked Moore for a leadoff walk. And this time it was Meeker’s turn to throw out the opposing catcher as he attempted to swipe second.
In the bottom of the stanza, Jay finally caught a little lightening in a bottle, when Matt Henderson cracked a one-out double into the alley. Backward struck out the next batter, but Meeker greeted the big senior with a shot to the opposite field that cleared the fence and the bases for a 2-2 tie.
Both teams stranded a pair of runners in their respective halves of the fifth, but after walking back-to-back batters in the bottom of the frame, Ty Stewart was called upon to relieve Backward.
On the heels of a scoreless sixth, Moore got Salina to go down in order in the seventh. In the top of the inning Kellen Brown reached base with a base on balls and moved into scoring position on Brett Pritchett’s sac bunt. It looked as if the ’Dogs might win it in regulation when Cal Guinn lined a clean single to left field. But the stop sign held Brown at third with only one out. And that’s where Brown remained as the next pair of Bulldog batsmen went down without a whimper.
With Moore still on the hill in the 8th, Salina’s Daniels led off with a single. Daniels moved to second on Clayton Eubank’s one-out single and on to third when Williamson reached on his scratch base hit. But Moore pitched his way out of the mess with a strikeout and a grounder to his third baseman, Brown.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jay showed that they knew how to manufacture a run themselves. A dropped third strike saw Henderson safe at first, where a subsequent passed ball moved him second base. And after Moore sacrificed Henderson to third, Salina chose to intentionally walk both Meeker and Tyler Buss. The strategy seemed it might work when Stewart struck out the next batter.
But with two down and the bases loaded, Pritchett nubbed a slow roller down the third base line. And with the runners on the go with the ping of the bat, Henderson raced home to cement the thrilling 3-2 come from behind victory.