Steady Perry, Polk defense stymie Patton for conference victory

Emotions ran high Thursday at The Bottoms – except when Alex Perry took the mound.

For six innings, the Polk County sophomore quietly went about his business, ignoring the hullabaloo around him and staying focused on keeping Patton’s offense in check. Not too high, not too low – just trying to get outs pitch after pitch.

Perry’s effort proved precisely what the Wolverines needed, sparking Polk to a 4-3 win over the visiting Panthers in a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference matchup.

The evening figured to be tense from the start, with Patton coaches having filed a protest in the wake of Polk’s 14-7 win in Morganton on Tuesday. Adding to the intensity of the evening was a pair of fine pitching efforts, with Patton sophomore left-hander Cole Attaway striking out 11 and allowing just three hits.

Perry struck out six and allowed eight hits in his six innings. He received some key defensive help, with Polk outfielders twice making diving catches to end innings and the Polk infield turning a double play late in the game.

“AP went out and did what he was supposed to do,” said Polk County head coach Billy Alm. “Throw strikes, miss barrels. And we played some defense behind him.

“We had some opportunities to break open the game. They had a good lefty on the mound, and he made pitches when he needed them. But really proud of the guys, how they worked and their focus tonight.”

Polk County’s Donte Tingling slides into third with a stolen base during the second inning of Thursday’s game

Polk County (7-3, 3-1) grabbed an early 2-0 lead, but Patton (3-5, 0-2) responded with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game.

The Wolverines, though, answered with what proved to be the winning rally in the bottom of the inning. Mark Jarrett drew a leadoff walk before Gunnar Alm laced a line drive into right field. A misfield of the ball allowed Jarrett to race around and score, with Alm taking second. Alm later stole third and scored on Lawson Carter’s infield grounder to make it 4-2.

The Wolverines turned their double play in the fifth after Attaway singled to open the inning. Patton loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, and a hit batter forced in one run before Perry got an infield popup to end the threat.

Carter relieved in the seventh and kept Patton off the scoreboard to record a save and seal the win.

Polk’s outfield gems came in the third, when Nick Sotomayor made a diving catch in left field of a shallow line drive with a runner on to end the inning, and in the fifth, when Alm followed the double play with a sliding catch in shallow center.

Alm singled in the first, stole second and third and scored on a Patton error to give the Wolverines a 1-0 advantage. The Wolverines added a run in the second as Karson Scruggs reached on an error, with courtesy runner Donte Tingling taking second on a passed ball and stealing third before scoring on Jarrett’s single.

Alm finished 2-for-3 with two runs and four stolen bases. Jarrett had Polk’s other hit.

Polk County is slated to be back in action on Tuesday, traveling to East Rutherford to start a key conference series.

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