Big fifth inning propels Harris County past Northside

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 19, 2014 

As it has played its games all season, the Harris County baseball team was patient on Wednesday at Northside.

Hitless through four innings, the Tigers finally came to life in the fifth, striking for five runs and rolling to a 7-1 region victory over its region foe.

The win kept Harris County (9-2, 5-0) perfect Region 1-AAAAA. It was Northside’s (7-3, 3-1) first region loss.

“I said it the other day, but it only takes one big inning,” Harris County coach Steve Westmoreland said. “We’ve done a good job playing seven innings.”

He noted the reason he thinks his team has been able to play so well in the late innings, and it’s because he doesn’t stress base hits as much as quality at-bats. That’s something the Tigers did well through four innings on Wednesday even though they had nothing to show for it.

They struck out only twice through the first four frames, putting the bat on the ball and sending it directly to defenders repeatedly. In the fifth inning, that good contact started to pay off.

Neil Jimmerson started the inning with a line-drive double to right, and Christian Wiggs followed with a single to set up a first-and-third, nobody-out situation. Casey Cobb, who also started the game on the mound, drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly to right.

Northside may have gotten out of the inning after a pop-up resulted in the second out, but Hughes Massengale roped a hard groundball to shortstop that was mishandled, bringing the second run to the plate. The play was scored an error, but Northside coach David Smart noted after the game that it would have been a “fantastic play” if shortstop Michael Rossi had made it.

Two more runs came in on a single by A.J. Willoughby, and Tyler Maley finished the action in the inning with another RBI single to make the score 5-1.

Cobb added a two-run home run in the sixth to finish the scoring at 7-1.

“(Northside pitcher Drew) Haywood threw the ball well,” Westmoreland said. “We just waited him out and things started to fall in the fifth. We didn’t get any runs in the first few innings, but we were getting quality at-bats.”

“They just started squaring it up,” Smart said. “They strung some hits together. There’s not much you can do or say about it except tip your cap to them.”

In addition to his 1-for-3, three-RBI day at the plate, Cobb was again superb on the hill for the Tigers. In a complete game, he allowed only two hits, including Northside’s only RBI on a single from Victor Ballesteros in the first inning. After that, he set down 19 of 22 batters the rest of the way.

He finished the game with five strikeouts and only one walk.

“I think we’re getting what Casey Cobb is,” Westmoreland said. “He has a quality start every time out even if he doesn’t have his best stuff. He limits the freebies, and you know you’re going to have a chance in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.”

Cobb said his fastball was working well, but he thought Northside did a good job squaring the ball up at times as well.

“It just found our guys,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times the defense bailed me out. Great defense can cover up a lot of mistakes.”

Harris County was perfect in the field, committing no errors in the game.

Harris County plays at Lee County in a doubleheader on Friday, while Northside travels to Thomas County Central for a pair.

Wednesday at Northside

Harris County 000 052 0—7 8 0

Northside 100 000 0—1 2 3

WP—Casey Cobb. LP—Drew Haywood. Leading hitters: Harris County, Cobb 1 for 3, HR, 3 RBIs, A.J. Willoughby 1 for 4, 2 RBIs, Christian Wiggs 2 for 4, 2B; Northside, Michael Rossi 1 for 3, Victor Ballesteros 1 for 3, RBI. Records: Harris County, 9-2, 5-0; Northside, 7-3, 3-1. Next: Harris County, Fri. at Lee County (5, 7:30 p.m.); Northside, Fri. at Thomas County Central (5, 7:30 p.m.).

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