BENTON, Tenn. - While it wasn't a game coach Bill Triplett will pin up on his wall of fame, Polk County's win over Bradley Central on Thursday may well become a cornerstone if the Wildcats have any postseason success.
The Wildcats overcame six errors and rallied three times - once to regain the lead, once to tie and once more in the eighth to secure a 6-5 win over the Bears, Triplett's first against Bradley in seven years as Polk's coach. The victory avenged a 5-3 loss to the Bears earlier this season.
"I had started to question our guts," Triplett said in reference to his team's 7-4 District 5-AA loss Wednesday to Sequoyah. "I wondered if we would be resilient. This win, well, I told the guys don't allow me to question our desire or ability again."
Triplett felt the players, many of them holdovers from the 2010 sectional finalists, had placed undue expectations on themselves.
"We were trying to lighten it up in the dugout and keep people from worrying too much about what was happening," said senior and University of Tennessee signee Jared Allen.
It was Allen's three-run double that put the Wildcats back in the lead in the second inning, but in part because of their erratic defensive it took a seventh-inning home run from cleanup hitter Michael Hargrove to force an extra inning.
"I don't think I have ever hit one in that type situation," he said.
The Wildcats won in the eighth on two singles, a fielder's choice and an errant Bradley play at first that allowed Justin Brown to score.
"We have struggled some early with our pitching, and then we have trouble making up the difference," Bradley coach Travis Adams said. "When our guys have struggled, it seems like they miss down the middle."
Submarine-style reliever John Hodges got one up just a little and Hargrove, who'd struck out twice in earlier at-bats, didn't miss, stroking his towering shot to right.
"I just reminded Michael that with a submariner on the mound that he'd get a long look at the pitch, and he didn't miss," Triplett said.