Bradley Central and East Hamilton stepped outside the box Sunday with a baseball pitching duel on the end of a grueling invitational weekend when aces are reserved for district games.
East Hamilton pulled it out, scoring its runs in the top of the seventh inning and holding on for a 3-2 victory over the Bears to win Hixson's Wildcat Classic.
"It's rare for a Sunday afternoon, but this was one of the best-pitched games I've seen in a while," winning coach Steve Garland said.
Through six innings, the teams combined for six hits.
"It was a pretty tight game when you probably go in expecting a lot of offense," Bradley coach Travis Adams said. "We weren't as tight at times as I'd like. They hit the ball late in the game and we missed a cutoff man and had a big play at third that didn't go our way."
There also was the debate of a ghost run. It was on the scoreboard, then off, then on again and back off.
With one out and runners on third and second in the third inning, the Hurricanes' Logan Templeton lofted an apparent sacrifice fly to right field, scoring the runner who'd been on third. There was a play at the plate and the runner beat the off-line throw. However, on an appeal, the runner at second was judged to have left the base too soon and called out. There was no force play, but the umpires ultimately discounted the run.
The national high school rule book says in part that the run should count, but that is prefaced by the qualifier that the runner being appealed has tried to return to the bag he left early. The runner in question said he tried to return, but the base umpire said he didn't. Two umpires not working the game said it was a timing play and the run should have counted.
Neither Garland nor Adams wanted to talk on the record about the sequence.
Fortunately for East Hamilton, the ruling didn't come into play as the Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the victory.
Brandon Williams, who would get the save with a strong showing in the bottom of the inning, led off the seventh and was hit by a pitch for the third time in the game. Templeton singled and designated hitter Hayden Williams stroked a two-run single to center. Patrick Parris followed with a run-scoring double to the base of the fence in center.
"We have a couple of guys that thrive on pressure, guys that really want to be in that type situation, and we were fortunate that they had opportunities," Garland said.
Alex Lyttleton pitched six innings and struck out six while giving up two unearned runs.
"The thing about an invitational tournament is getting to go deep into your pitching pool and actually seeing what you have," Garland said after Lyttleton's first mound performance this year. "Lyttleton pitched very well, and then we had a guy come in and challenge the hitters instead of nibbling at the corners. And their guy pitched really well, too."
Bradley sophomore Jacob Maynard worked out of bases-loaded jams in the first two innings and then struck out the side in the third.
"He battled, but as a team we dodged more than our share of bullets," Adams said. "East Hamilton is a good club. ... Their guy kept us off balance the whole game."