Polk County showed Tuesday night why it may yet be a factor in the Western Highlands Conference playoff race. Madison showed why it could well win it.
The Patriots got a complete game from Tyler Rogers and rapped out 13 hits to outlast a determined Wolverine squad, 9-5, in WHC action at Polk County.
Polk County earned an 11-6 win in the junior varsity game. Both teams are back in action on Wednesday as Polk County hosts the WNC Trailblazers, with JV action beginning at 4.
The loss, Polk County’s fourth straight, dropped the Wolverines four games behind Hendersonville in the conference standings, and once Madison built a 5-1 lead in the top of the fifth, it would have been easy enough for the Wolverines to simply go through the motions the rest of the way on a cool, windy evening.
But Polk County (5-9, 3-4) instead responded with a four-run outburst, fighting back to tie the score at 5-5. Nathan Collins, Bryce Martin and J.D. Edwards opened the inning with singles, Edwards’ base hit to right driving in Collins. Tyler Campbell’s ground ball put runners on the corners with one out, and Wes Brady singled sharply to left to drive home Martin and make it 5-3. One out and a walk to Konner Scruggs later, Mark Mazzilli ripped a single to right-center, driving home both Campbell and Brady before being caught trying to go to second. Nonetheless, the rally evened the score and gave the Wolverines new life.
But the Patriots (9-3, 5-1) responded in the top of the sixth. Polk County pitcher Morgan Groves, one of six pitchers the Wolverines used in the game, got the first two outs of the inning before hitting Trenton Davis. Mitchell Garrett then doubled to left, with Davis stopping at third. James Gosnell followed with a sharp ground ball to short, but Wes Brady’s throw on the difficult bouncer was wide, allowing Davis to score. John Heys, 4-for-4 on the night, then singled to center to drive home two runs and make it an 8-5 game.
Madison added a run in the seventh and Rogers retired the final six batters in order to ensure the win.
“We improved. We got a lot better in the past 28 hours,” said Polk County head coach Ty Stott. “But we’re not just looking to improve. We’re looking to win.
“It’s been a tough four-game stretch, but I’m not giving up and I hope they don’t. It’s going to take a team effort to get this fixed.”
Madison notched a run in the first off starter J.D. Edwards, who pitched the first and a portion of the third inning, but Polk answered in the bottom half as Edwards tripled to right field, then scored on a Brady two-out single. Madison, though, put runners on base in every inning and scored in all but one, including a pair of runs in the third and one in the fourth and fifth in building the 5-1 lead.
Edwards, Scruggs, Brady, Campbell, Groves and Collins all saw time on the mound, and Stott said that pattern may become a familiar one. Sophomore Daniel Painter would also have pitched an inning, but is sidelined with an injury.
“This may be our new system,” Stott said. “We don’t have anyone capable of throwing seven innings right now.”
Edwards and Brady each finished 2-for-4 and Collins, a freshman, finished 2-for-3 for Polk County. Both saw time at multiple positions in the game.
“Nathan Collins has been a bright spot,” Stott said. “He is showing how you get playing time. When you have a scrappy team, and we’re going to have to be a scrappy team to win, you’re going to have players playing different positions. I think Nathan played three or four different positions tonight.
“I think this is looking a lot more like a Polk County team. I think we’re on the right page. We’re not going to trade for anybody and we’re not going to draft anybody. What we’ve got is what we’ve got, and we’ve got to win with that.”