By Kyle Parmley
PINSON – Errors were the undoing of Clay-Chalkville in the final inning.
Pinson Valley’s Jacob Brown reached on an errant throw to begin the bottom half of the seventh. Gage Farley replaced him on the base paths, setting up the game’s final sequence.
With the game deadlocked at 1 and the potential winning run at second base, Baker Hodge slapped a grounder to third. The ball found its way under the glove of the third baseman and into shallow left. Farley made the turn around third and just beat the throw to the plate.
The walk-off play lifted Pinson Valley to a 2-1 win over Clay-Chalkville to open up Class 6A, Area 12 play Tuesday night in Pinson.
“I was just trying to stay relaxed, see the ball and hit the ball hard,” Hodge said. “I just tried to put the ball in play, and make them make a play on it.”
While he won’t get a credit for the game-winning RBI due to the error, Hodge had a great night at the plate, reaching base all four times with two hits and a walk.
Both pitchers went the distance on the night, as Clay-Chalkville’s Blake Petty and Pinson Valley’s Brett Jordan each put forth commendable efforts to give their clubs a chance to win. Jordan was outstanding, only giving up two hits and the lone run in his seven innings of work. He struck out 11 Cougars, including striking out the side in order in the fourth inning. Petty struck out five in 6 2/3 innings.
“That was a good ballgame,” Pinson Valley head coach Shane Chappell said. “It was a well-pitched ballgame by both guys. I thought we hit the ball well against (Petty). We just hit some balls right at guys. If (Jordan) doesn’t pitch like that, it doesn’t give us a chance to do something there at the end.”
The only scoring through the first six-and-a-half innings was a pair of solo home runs, one from each side. Jody Graves put the Indians on the board in the bottom of the second with a drive to deep center that struck the yellow lining on top of the fence and caromed over. Thomas Johns responded for the Cougars in the bottom of the sixth, blasting one well into the trees beyond the right field fence.
The game was Johns’ first game action of the season, as he returned from injury. He struck out his first two plate appearances before connecting on his homer.
“He’s a good player,” Chappell said of Johns. “He hasn’t seen live pitching in a few months. I got cute and tried to waste a changeup. We left it up and he hammered our mistake. Good by him.”
Clay-Chalkville had a chance to get something going in its half of the second inning, but that idea was thwarted when Pinson Valley’s Hunter Davidson made a diving catch on a screaming line drive into center by Matthew Calvert.
Pinson Valley experienced its own round of misfortune in the bottom of the fourth, when Graves and Rudd Mauldin each sent fly balls to deep center field, but were both tracked down and caught.
After struggling some early in the season, Chappell thinks his team is about to hit its stride.
“We’re kind of turning the corner. Our guys are getting some confidence. We needed that win for us and for our mentality,” Chappell said.
The two teams will return to the field Wednesday afternoon to finish out the series. A doubleheader at Clay-Chalkville will begin at 4:30 p.m., as the Cougars will need to win both to capture the season series.