For half of Monday’s non-conference matchup with East Henderson, Polk County head baseball coach Ty Stott saw the team he hopes the 2014 Wolverines will become – making key defensive plays, getting good pitching, producing some offense.
While that picture didn’t last for all seven innings of the Wolverines’ 10-4 loss to the Eagles, it still gave Stott reason for optimism as Polk County prepares for the start of Western Highlands Conference play on Friday.
“We played a very intense game of baseball for four innings,” Stott said. “It was like a playoff atmosphere. But we didn’t keep our heads.
“We got zero breaks, they got a few to fall their way and the floodgates opened.”
East Henderson piled up four runs in the fourth and sixth innings, with single runs in the fifth and seventh frames, to pull away and drop the Wolverines to 1-3 entering Tuesday night’s home matchup with Erwin. Potential No. 2 starters Morgan Groves and Wes Brady are scheduled to see time on the mound against the Warriors as Polk County works to solidify its starting lineup and rotation before traveling to Madison on Friday.
“I think we know who our No. 2 starters are going to be, we just need to get them ready,” Stott said. “We’re putting the pieces together right now to get through seven innings of baseball.”
Polk County grabbed an early 1-0 lead Monday as Bryce Martin legged out an infield single, moved to second on Daniel Painter’s sacrifice, then scored one out later on Brady’s fly-ball double down the left field line. Starter Dequan Gary made that lead stand over his two innings of work, getting some defensive help in the second when, with East Henderson’s Josh Conard on third, Martin quickly snared a wild pitch and caught Conard in a rundown, he eventually being called out for leaving the baseline while running around Martin.
Painter came in to pitch the third and also benefitted from defensive help. With a runner on second and two outs, Austin Fisher ripped a line drive into center field. Mark Mazilli quickly fielded the hit, and his strong throw to the infield caused Fisher to stop at third base. Painter retired the next batter on an infield grounder to end the threat.
But East finally broke through in the fourth, scoring one run on Austin Prichard’s single to right and loading the bases with two outs. Patrick Jackson then lofted a deep fly ball to left-center that fell just between two Polk outfielders, clearing the bases and giving East a 4-1 edge.
“That double seemed to deflate us,” Stott said. “As coaches we tell them that this is what can’t happen the next time. That’s why we play non-conference games.”
The Eagles continued to build the lead as Stott worked through a series of pitchers. Polk County did rally in the bottom of the seventh, scoring on RBI singles by Trevor Arrowood and Jesse Bradley and a bases-loaded walk to Brady.
“I saw a different team tonight those first three innings,” Stott said. “Now we just have to put together seven innings.”
Polk County earned a 5-4 win in the junior varsity game.