Wolverines seize on Madison miscues to win conference opener

Opportunity knocked again for Polk County. This time, the Wolverines answered.

Polk’s last date at The Bottoms, a 6-3 loss to East Henderson, proved forgetable for the breaks that the Wolverines didn’t use to their advantage. That wasn’t the case Tuesday as Polk capitalized on a shaky stretch of defense by Madison to claim a 4-1 victory.

Three Patriot errors, all with two outs, keyed a four-run second inning that gave Polk County starter Micah Hill all the support he would need. Hill allowed five hits while striking out eight in his complete-game win.

“Micah pitched his butt off,” said Polk County head coach Billy Alm. “The one run came, the way I look at it, on a botched-up play at first base where we didn’t talk. But other than that, two walks and eight strikeouts, he absolutely showed.”

The spring of 2019 seems a lifetime ago, but Polk County won the Western Highlands Conference championship that season as well as in 2018, and the Wolverines (2-3, 1-0) started their quest for a third straight WHC crown in the right manner.

The second inning proved the decider. Jackson Beiler reached on an infield error with one out, with courtesy runner Brad Marcello moving to second on Chan Barber’s groundout. Lawson Carter’s infield grounder appeared set to end the inning, but an errant throw to first allowed Carter to reach safely and Marcello to score the game’s first run.

Shane Parris followed with a single before another Madison error on Alex Tipton’s grounder brought in Carter and moved Parris to third. Polk then perfectly executed a double steal, with Tipton beating the throw to second and Parris easily scoring to make it 3-0.

Bryson Edwards’ single to center drove home Tipton for the 4-0 lead.

Polk County head coach Billy Alm talks with starter Micah Hill during the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game

Hill made certain that lead would hold. He only encountered trouble in the fifth as Madison loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a walk. James Smith’s infield grounder scored one run, but Hill followed with a strikeout and Barber gloved Trent Jones’ well-hit liner to right to end the Patriot threat.

The Wolverines finished with seven hits and left just five on base, a much better total than the 15 stranded in the loss to East Henderson. But still not what Alm wants to see.

“We had the one inning where we scored the runs, but we’ve got to get better at putting more pressure on them late in the game and getting base runners on,” Alm said.

“We’re young in some spots, and without playing last year, we have some guys that just have to get back playing again.”

The two teams meet again Friday in Marshall where Madison (0-3, 0-1) will be eager to pick up its first win of the season.

Polk County would love nothing more than to complete a sweep of the week.

“Madison is usually our toughest opponent in the conference,” Alm said. “To get a win against them is great.”