Hixson put its fate in the hands of a freshman and Tanner Moylan responded in a big way, striking out 11 on his way to an eight-inning, 2-1 victory over Central in the District 6-AA baseball tournament Monday night.
The win secured a region berth and a championship final for the Wildcats, who'll sit today and watch the losers-bracket final to see if they'll face the Purple Pounders, with whom they split in the regular season, or Red Bank, a 10-5 winner over Tyner in Monday's first game.
The Hixson-Central game ended in dramatic fashion.
In the top of the eighth, Hixson's Alex Prewitt singled and then stole second. He came around to score on Bradley Burris' second hit of the night, a single to right field.
The Wildcats were three outs from a victory, but Tyler Lowe's one-out single, his fourth hit of the evening, kept the Pounders alive. Gabe Fomby followed with a fly to deep center and Lowe was nailed at third on Tre Coleman's throw after tagging up at second.
"Oh, me," sighed Colton Green, the former Wildcat in his first year as a head coach. "The hit by Burris that scored the run was the play of the game, but then getting the double play to end the game -- you couldn't pick a better time than that."
Central drew first blood, scoring its only run on Drew McDaniel's single, a wild pitch and Lowe's single to right. Pounders starting pitcher Dakota Fowler, with six strikeouts, made it stand good for four innings, before the Wildcats touched him to tie it in the fifth on Burris' leadoff single and then Moylan's single, which squirted past the left fielder, allowing Burris to score.
Fowler got himself out of a jam in the sixth with two on and no outs when he picked off the lead runner at second. He struck out the next two batters.
The score remained tied until the eighth, and then Moylan finished his own game.
"He battled all night long," Green said. "They got guys on and got them in scoring position and had the winning run at third in the bottom of the seventh, and he just bowed his neck."
"I was thinking it was really a big decision by [the coaches] in a big game for us -- make or break going to the region -- and it was like they were making a statement to me," Moylan said.
Red Bank got a huge three-run homer from Alex Chambers -- part of a 4-for-4 night -- that proved the difference in their elimination-game win over the Rams.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.