Huskies eliminate Grissom, look to Hoover next in baseball playoffs
By Erik Harris
Tenth-ranked Hewitt-Trussville has talent, experience and confidence. But sometimes those qualities aren’t enough to win championships. To go the distance and earn a ring, you must have that fighter’s mentality that won’t let you quit when things get tough.
Rather the Huskies will hoist the AHSAA championship trophy later this month is yet to be seen, but with a nerve-racking series win over Grissom, the critiques wont dare label them quitters.
Trussville squeaked out two come from behind victories over the Tigers after dropping game one on Friday evening 5-3, advancing them to the semifinal round of the state playoffs.
“To escape here with two wins shows the fighters mentality of our kids,” said Trussville coach Jeff Mauldin. “It was a team effort, not just one or two guys and I’m proud of our kids for how they handled adversity.”
A stellar performance from senior Grayson Jones on the mound, combined with a clutch two-out rally in the sixth inning pushed the Huskies past Grissom 5-2 in game two. Then, an inspirational stand by righty Kane Morrow in the final inning of the rubber match was capitalized on by the Trussville offense to end the Tigers season with a 4-3 loss.
The Huskies will host No. 3 Hoover for another three-game series starting next Friday. The Bucs swept fourth-ranked Bob Jones in round three.
Missed opportunities and a devastating four-run fourth inning by Grissom put the visitors in a corner that can only be escaped by winning two in a row.
Despite stranding six runners on base and managing only three hits, the Tigers found a way to please their home crowd with a 5-3 decision that gave them the upper hand in the best of three series.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning, starter Harrison Gunter found himself in a sticky bases loaded situation that he could not escape without punishment. Grissom plated four runs in the inning, two of them coming via Logan Mobley’s two RBI double.
The Huskies did show resilience with a two-run inning of their own, but it was hardly enough to finalize the comeback. The other Huskie run came in the third; DeMarcus Kelly scored from second on an error off the bat of Jasen White.
The visitors struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-6 in such at bats.
With the rain crashing down on the seemingly lifeless Trussville offense, a two-game sweep was all but accomplished by Grissom on Friday night. The Huskies were on the wrong end of a 2-1 score with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Then, lightning struck in the form of a Trussville rally that sent four runs across and set the table for a 5-2 Huskie win that forced a decisive game three on Saturday.
After William Stokes reached on a one-out single, the Tigers made a pitching chance that didn’t pan out. Righty Ben Splawn quickly got the second out of the sixth, but out three would be a bit tougher to find.
Senior Connor Cox found a hole up the middle to score two and put Trussville ahead for the first time 3-2. Two more RBI singles, one by Carter Pharis followed by Cyle Moore’s chopper into left, gave them a 5-2 advantage late.
The game ended on Jones’ eighth strikeout of the night.
“We tell [our players] all the time to just keep playing the game and in the end good things are going to happen if you don’t panic,” said Mauldin.
This time, the Huskies managed to stay calm and find clutch hits, which made all the difference. A 3-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position played a big role in the game two win.
For the third game in a row, the visiting Huskies found themselves trailing Grissom early. And for the second time in as many games, they fought through the deficit to win a thriller at, according to Mauldin, the toughest ballpark to visit in the state.
“I’m just proud of our guys for how they handled the fans,” said Mauldin. “The [Grissom] fans really made an impact.”
A Carter Pharis one-out grounder into left sent senior Dakota Harwell sliding across the plate for a 4-3 victory in walk off fashion.
“He threw me a fastball and I just went the other way with it,” said Pharis. “It’s a great feeling knowing that we’re going to the semis.”
A half inning earlier Trussville seemed to be doomed. With no outs and the bases loaded, Morrow faced the heart of the Tigers order in the 3-3 rubber match. He went on to lineout power hitter Thomas Hill before striking out Carter Williams and Garrett Rogers to kill the threat and set the stage for his offense.
“We were trying to go off the plate on them because we know how dangerous they are,” said Mauldin. “We located and got them to lineout, then got two strikeouts and [Morrow] hasn’t pitched in about five weeks.”
Through one and a half innings of play, the host Tigers clamed a 3-0 advantage after a Michael McCreless two-run single and a Thomas Hill RBI groundout. The Huskies answered with a two-run second, to trim their lead to a single run.
Designated hitter Brent Robson started the bottom of the third with a crushing shot over the left centerfield fence, knotting the game at 3-3.
The Huskies now turn their attention toward Hoover, who they will host in round four.