Cooter's Jordan Anderson is met at home plate by the Wildcats' Dustin Franklin following his second home run Tuesday afternoon against Risco. [Order this photo]
The top-seeded Cooter Wildcats earned its spot in the title game with a 7-1 win against the fourth-seeded Risco Tigers. The victory came a week after Risco beat Cooter 6-0 to end the Wildcats' 78-game conference winning-streak.
"We thought coming into today if we played well we would win the game," Cooter coach Allen Crawford said. "Risco had a great game the first time it played us and turned a couple of double plays. We didn't battle really hard, but today our kids were ready to play. We made a few errors early, but fixed that. Once Brandon came into the game he got control and we picked up a few runs from there on."
It took the second-seeded Holcomb Hornets only five innings to punch its ticket to Wednesday's final. The Hornets collected an 11-0 run-rule win against the third-seeded Campbell Camels.
"We got a good start early today and yesterday hitting the ball," Holcomb coach Matt Casper said. "When we hit I'll take our chances against any team. It helps a pitcher calm down and throw strikes when you score early."
Holcomb's Hunter Swafford and Dustin Houart look on as the Hornets' Michael Glover crosses home plate following his first-inning home run against Campbell Tuesday. [Order this photo]
"He's hit a couple of home runs this year," Risco coach Brandon Blankenship said of Chris Pavy. "He been hitting well all year and is batting over .500. He hits the ball in the gaps and runs the bases well."
Risco's lead didn't last long.
Cooter tied the contest at one in the bottom of the third when Patrick Ward reached on a single and eventually scored on an infield error. Later in the inning, the Wildcats' Jordan Anderson hit a two-run homer off of Risco starting pitcher Jordon Pavy to give Cooter a 3-1 lead.
"I haven't been hitting too hot in the first part of the season," Anderson said. "But I've got myself to where I am waiting and seeing the ball a whole lot better now."
Crawford went to the bullpen in the top of the fourth and brought in Brandon Bridges after Risco's first two hitters reached base in the inning. Bridges escaped the jam without allowing a run, striking out two in the inning after picking up the first out on a sacrifice bunt.
"He's a great control pitcher with good velocity," Crawford said of Bridges. "He spots it well and gets strikeouts. He's also left-handed, which makes a difference. He's good to bring in in a tough situation."
Bridges faced the minimum in the final three innings of the game and never surrendered a hit.
"Cooter is just a good team," Blankenship said. "They've got a great program. We were fortunate to get a win over them last week. We were hoping lightning would strike twice, but it didn't happen today. We just didn't put the ball in play enough. We didn't have a great deal of opportunities and when we did have them we didn't take advantage."
Cooter added a run in the fifth when Anderson hit his second homer, a one-out solo blast. Cooter tacked on three insurance runs in the sixth. Ward and Jesse Rayburn had one-RBI hits for the Wildcats in the sixth.
"Our seniors have been in the doldrums," Crawford said. "They are starting to snap out of it. We think the next few weeks they will get better."
Holcomb scored in the first three innings of its run-rule win against Campbell.
Hornets' starting pitcher Dustin Houart allowed only two hits and stuck out seven. Houart earned a five-inning complete-game win on the mound.
"I only threw three curveballs," Houart said. "I located my fastball and had good defense behind me."
Campbell starter Taylor Mize allowed 11 runs in the first three innings of the game.
Holcomb's Michael Glover had a two-run homer in the first and Hunter Swafford had an RBI-single.
The Hornets tacked on a run in the second when Cameron Clark drove home a run on a sacrifice fly to the outfield.
Seven more runs crossed home plate in the third. Aaron Burke had a three-RBI hit in the frame. Swafford, Aaron Reeves and Ryan Swain had one RBI each.
"They are really good," Campbell coach Jeff Boner said. "They play well with good pitching and hitting. They played the bases and ran really well."
Campbell is 11-8 following the loss
"We've got to get some of these kids with inexperience some experience," Boner said. "We are a young bunch. Hopefully we can bounce back from this and maybe do something in the district."
According to maxpreps.com, Cooter improves to 14-1 with the win. The Wildcats are ranked No. 2 in the latest Class 1 state poll.
"Wednesday's game against Holcomb is a big game for us," Crawford said. "After that our schedule really toughens up. I'm not taking anything away from Holcomb. They have a good club, but we've got play well from here on out to compete. We are playing the tough schedule to get ready for the district. Hopefully we can keep up the good work."
Holcomb is currently 18-3. The Hornets are ranked No. 10 in Class 1.
"We've got to hit the ball and play defense," Houart said of Wednesday's championship. "If we make errors we are not going to come out of it the way we want to. We have a feeling we will hit the ball, but we've got to make defensive plays."
Cooter's projected starting pitcher for the conference championship game is Anderson.
"I'm excited and ready for it," he said.
Anderson has already signed to play baseball at Three Rivers Community College next season.
"We are ready," Casper said. "We've just got to make a few adjustments. We will face one of the top pitchers around here Wednesday. If we hit we can play with anyone. If we don't, it is going to be interesting."
Holcomb coach Casper has the majority of his pitchers available to pitch in the championship after five-inning run-rule wins against Clarkton and Campbell in the Hornets' first two games of the eight-team tournament.
"They may see a couple of different pitchers or just one," Casper said. "It kind of depends on how the game starts out. I haven't really made up my mind for sure who will pitch. We will do what works best for us and we will see their best."