By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
PINSON — Fifth-ranked Southside-Gadsden and host No. 10 Pinson Valley traded shutouts and dodged raindrops on Friday evening, as the teams split their quarterfinal doubleheader in the Class 5A baseball playoffs.
The Indians took the opening game 4-0, while the Panthers prevailed in the nightcap by a 1-0 score, setting up a third and deciding game Saturday at 6 p.m., weather permitting.
In the opening game, Pinson took advantage of Southside’s fielding mistakes to score all of their runs in the second inning. First baseman Tyler Evans, who was hit by a pitch, came around to score when Panther pitcher Alex Pondick tried to pick him off and threw wildly.
Two batters later with two outs, designated hitter Baker Hodge got on board on an error that would have ended the inning if played properly. He scored when Scott Falkinburg drew a walk with the bases full.
Second baseman Gracen Armstrong provided the big blow with a single that scored two runs, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Colby Wingard worked the hill for the complete game win, striking out four. Pondick also went the distance, with four strikeouts against six hits.
First baseman Drew Mullinax went 3-for-4 for Southside (29-12), and Evans was 2-for-2 for Pinson (31-12).
In the nightcap, Mullinax scored the game’s only run, leading off the bottom of the third with a double. He took third base on a ground-out by pitcher Andrew Fuhrman and came home on left fielder Hunter Clough’s single to right.
The Indians got their lead-off hitter on base in five out of seven innings, and four times that runner reached second or better. But Fuhrman pitched his way out of the jam every time, twice benefitting from double plays.
One of those twin killings came on a spectacular diving catch by right fielder Braxton Light in the rain; he then threw to first to double off the pinch-hitting Hodge, who had already gotten to third by the time he realized what had happened.
“With good teams like that [Southside], you can’t waste opportunities like that,” coach Shane Chappell said.
Fuhrman fanned eight Tribe batters and allowed five hits.
Pinson starter Wyatt Burns had a good outing despite the loss, striking out five Panthers. He extricated himself from a bases-loaded situation in the first when shortstop Brock Love looked at strike three.
Falkinburg was 2-for-4 for the Indians, while Clough, Mullinax and Cody Pylant were each 2-for-3 for the Panthers.
Chappell will send his 6-foot-5 ace, Bailey Chesser, to the mound in the third game. Chesser has not seen action for two weeks, since the Indians swept Mortimer Jordan in the second round.