TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - Over the course of a normal baseball season more games will be decided by the execution - or not - of the little things. You don't have to remind Todd Middleton or Eric Beagles of that, especially this week.
For the second consecutive day. Middleton's Northwest Whitfield Bruins won on their final at-bat when Beagles' Heritage Generals couldn't make the routine play. A pair of errors Wednesday in the seventh inning and another play that could have been made were the difference in a 3-2 Northwest win.
"It's another win, and just like yesterday there wasn't a lot of offense going, so the difference was executing and not executing and a lot of small ball," Middleton said. "I guess it was a case of who was going to make the mistake. We made some yesterday on bunt attempts, and they made some today."
The Bruins (9-3, 5-0 in 7B-AAAA) won Tuesday on an errant pickoff attempt in the seventh in the opener of a three-game series and were trailing 2-0 Wednesday when the team's small-ball attack made a dent. A one-out infield single by Diego Peralta followed by Edwin Hernandez's double got Northwest on the board against Heritage (7-6, 3-2) starter Ryan Parker, with Hernandez taking third on the throw home.
Seth Pierce then tied the game with an infield out and it remained tied heading to the last of the seventh. Northwest's Walker Merritt opened the inning by reaching on an infield error and moved to third when Omar Hernandez, trying to sacrifice, hustled his way to an infield hit. Logan Hilton then laid down a bunt, but the ball was thrown away trying to get the runner at third, with Merritt scoring the game-winner easily.
Pierce earned the win with two strong innings of relief, but it was starter Andy Whisenant's gutty five-inning effort that made the difference. Whisenant, after a 1-2-3 first inning, issued three consecutive walks in the second, the last a run-scoring pass to Damian Goins. Heritage made it 2-0 in the fourth on Noah Hill's two-out single, but Whisenant stranded six runners to give his team a chance.
"I had a little trouble with my release point in the second inning, but I was able to find it," said Whisenant. "I hate the cold weather, but it's nice we were able to come back and get the win. We're not hitting very well right now, but we're getting there."
Pierce's two innings, which included four strikeouts, were also encouraging for the Bruins. The junior ace has been hampered by a muscle strain in his back and is on track, according to Middleton, to re-join the rotation in the next couple of weeks.
"Seth came in and slammed the door and gave us a chance to win it," Middleton said. "We're playing it day-to-day with him, but as we saw today he's coming along well."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.