A five-hit fourth inning was what the doctor ordered for Hampton.
The Bulldogs closed their regular season schedule behind the strong frame, scoring four runs to key a 5-2 Friday victory over Cosby in the first five-inning tilt of a special three-team Senior Day at Bulldog Field.
“We finally got patient and started waiting on the ball instead of running out in the middle of the infield,” said Hampton coach Matthew Hardin. “I was tickled to death that our boys were able to get a win. We came from behind and only committed one error today. That was big.”
Cosby finished with a split on the evening, routing Cloudland 9-1 in a second five-inning game that was added Thursday evening due to the teams’ home field senior day cancellations.
The Bulldogs faced Cloudland Saturday in the play-in of the District 1-A baseball tourney, but there was work to be done first.
Hampton jumped on board first in the opener when Mark Ailport reached on an error, stole second and scored on a double-steal attempt following a Jeffrey Hughis single.
The Eagles’ offense got going in the third inning with a lead-off single from Luke Lemons, who reached second on an infield error and made his way around the bases for a tying run.
Tanner Phillips and Zach Daruna followed with singles, then Billy Pinto offered a sac fly RBI to give the visitors the lead.
After struggling through the third inning, Hampton’s offense took a turn for the better with a fourth inning lead-off double from Hughis.
Taylor Edwards brought the tying run across the plate with an RBI single, then a hit and error from the bat of Stone Hutchinson placed the runners in scoring position.
An infield error from the bat of Anthony Oliver plated Edwards to tie the game. Dallas Clawson followed with a single to load the bases for Ailport, who offered a two-run single to give the Bulldogs a comfortable 5-2 lead.
“We had some big hits with runners in scoring position and that’s something we’ve had trouble with this year,” Hardin said. “There was just a lot of positive stuff today.”
Cosby didn’t quit, however, as Jacob Batter and Phillips led the fifth with consecutive hits. The Bulldogs replaced Stone Hutchinson on the mound with Hughis, but the reliever was placed in a tight spot with a bases-loading single from Pinto.
A pair of pop-fly grabs and a fielder’s choice grounder allowed Hampton to seal the win.
“Stone threw strikes and Jeffrey came in and threw strikes,” said Hardin. “We made the plays we had to make and the boys responded when they got down.”
Hutchinson picked up the win for the Bulldogs with Cosby’s Michael Kagel taking the loss. Hughes, who led the ’Dogs at the plate with a 2-for-2 night, took the save with his appearance in the fifth.
Phillps led the game offensively, for Cosby, with a 3-for-3 effort and one run scored.
The game marked the final home appearance for Hampton’s Edwards, Eddie Olvera and Justin Adkins.
Billy Pinto and Jacob Ledford each had two hits for the Eagles in their evening decision.
Ledford plated three runs while both players scored twice on a game that saw Cloudland struggle at the plate against starter Michael Kagel.
The game marked the final regular-season appearance for Cloudland’s Danny Arnett, Hunter Nelson, Colby Gwyn, Logan Peek, Jonathan Hill and Zach Shell.
“I want to express my appreciation for Coach Hardin and Hampton,” said Cloudland coach Kevin Kendall. “Through some unusual circumstances our last home game against Washburn, they told me they weren’t coming and Matthew extended his home field to us and gave us a senior night and gave us a home game — and he didn’t have to do that. We appreciate our bitter rivals Hampton — we appreciate them and we think that they’re classy. Their players reflect their coach and he’s a good man. Now we’d like to beat them every time we play them, but as far as sportsmanship goes and class goes, Hampton’s got it on anybody.”
Cloudland got its lone run in the fourth inning following a lead-off double from Gwyn. The runner advanced to third on a 6-3 ground-out, then scored on a passed ball from a dropped third strikeout.
Cosby used RBI singles from Ledford and Keenan Phillips to jump out to a 2-0 advantage.
A fielding error plated two for the Eagles in the second inning, while an RBI single and RBI groundout made it a 6-0 game.
The Eagles put the icing on the cake in the fifth inning after a lead-off triple from Pinto. Ledford plated the runner with an RBI single, then Kagel brought the runner across with an RBI double and later scored on a bunt to wrap the win.
Kagel took the win on the mound for Cosby, striking out seven while dealing three hits. Nelson took the loss on the mound, striking out four while giving up nine hits.
Zac Shell led Cloudland at the plate with a two-hit effort.
“I’ve been telling them all year we’ve got to finish strong,” Kendall added. “We’ve played good at times, we’ve played horrible at times. We’ve had good defense, we’ve had some bad defense. We haven’t consistently hit the ball at all. Two of our starting pitchers are hurt.
“I told them it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The real season starts (Saturday). If we can put together a solid seven-inning game, I believe we can win. Hampton’s got a good team. They hit the ball well. I think we’re going to have to be on our top game to hang with them but I think we can.”
Cosby 002 00 — 2 8 3
Hampton 100 4x — 5 6 1
Kagel and Pinto. Hutchinson, Hughis (5) and Clawson. W—Hutchinson. L—Kagel. Sv—Hughis. 3B: Cosby, Pinto. 2B: Cosby, Phillips; Hampton, Hughes.
Cosby 240 03 — 9 9 2
Cloudland 000 10 — 1 3 1
Kagel and Pinto. Nelson and Shell. W—Kagel. L—Nelson. 3B: Cosby (Pinto). 2B: Cosby (Kagel), Cloudland (Gwyn).