Ice littered the grass in front of the Hixson High School dugout after first-year head coach Colton Green received his Gatorade bath, and senior Alex Prewitt tightly clenched the District 6-AA championship plaque while he posed for pictures with his team, hardly able to contain his excitement as they all "held up their ones."
Prewit, named co-player of the year in the district, had just pitched his team to their first district title since 2005, back when Green himself was a Wildcat, with a 2-0 shutout of Central on Wednesday evening at Central High School.
"He did what he's done all season," said Green. "He pounded the strike zone and put up another zero. I'm really happy we could win this for the seniors. They've had three losing seasons, so it was really nice to get this one for them."
Prewitt went the distance, allowing only two hits while striking out four.
"We stayed strong and stayed up in the dugout," he said. "When coach told me 'three more outs,' I got pumped and ready to go."
Fellow senior John Mulkey would do the damage with the bat and delivered both Wildcat runs.
Gill Brown reached on an error in the fourth, scampering all the way to second before Mulkey stepped in with two outs.
"I couldn't pick up the breaking ball in my first at-bat and struck out, but I adjusted and zoned in," said Mulkey.
He sent a blooper into center field that fell just in front of the Purple Pounders' diving outfielder to score Brown. The second run came on a hustle play in the sixth.
Bradley Burris singled and advanced into scoring position on a groundout to set the table for Mulkey -- again with two outs. He beat out an infield single and Burris was waved in all the way from second on the play.
"A clutch hit put us on the board, and that last run was huge for an insurance run and to keep the momentum," Green said. "It took pitching and clutch hitting. We knew going in that it was going to be close. Every game with these guys has been a battle."
Central had chances to snatch the game from Hixson with runners in scoring position in the first, third and sixth innings, but the Pounders could not push a run across.
"Three different innings we got the leadoff guy on and played it by the book. We bunted them over successfully to get the hit, but the hit never came," Pounders coach Glen Carter said. "Two hits isn't going to win a little league game. We need to find a way to get the bats hot, because if not, the bats are going to go up."
Carter said the good news is his team is still playing and will have a chance to bring some offense into the regional tournament.
"My guys showed up when they had to and put us into the postseason," said Carter. "We're going to take these next couple of days and just hit because that's what's hurt us lately. This time of the year, you have to score because teams are putting their best pitchers out there or you're going home.
Central's Bret Hardy pitched all seven innings, scattering five hits and allowing two runs, one earned, while picking up four strikeouts.
Contact Idris Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.