HAMILTON — In the final frame of a Region 1-AAAAA contest between Northside and Harris County on Thursday, the Patriots knocked back-to-back doubles with two outs to cut the Tigers slim lead in half and add a little bit of drama to a game that had been dominated by pitching on both sides for the first six innings.
Harris County pitcher Drew Reeves had allowed just three other hits up to that point in a dominant effort on the mound. After the RBI double off the bat of Kenny Harrell, Casey Cobb — the No. 1 starting pitcher for the Tigers, who was playing third base in this game — walked to the mound. Calmly, he tapped gloves with Reeves, gave him a pat on the back side and walked back to his position.
The next batter flew out to left field, ending the momentary rally and giving the Tigers a 2-1 win that put them back into second place in the region race.
“Our whole season, I think everybody’s had the drama at some point,” Tigers coach Steve Westmoreland said. “It’s to be expected right now. Especially when you’ve got two guys on the mound who were as impressive as (Jalen) Latta and Reeves were today. Runs are tough.”
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And they were.
Neither team scored until the fourth inning, when Harris County put up one run on an RBI single from Tyler Maley. In the fifth, the Tigers scored their second and final run of the game without the benefit of a hit. Hunter Morgan walked and Alex Graulich reached on an error. Carson Powell’s fielder’s choice moved Morgan to third, and he came home when Kurt Ornowski grounded into a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat.
That was it for Harris County. It notched just two hits all game, one from Maley and the other from Ornowski.
Northside recorded five hits total, two of which were the doubles in the final inning that resulted in a run. Other than that, nothing.
“He just stayed in the strike zone,” Westmoreland said of Reeves. “I mean, his command was exceptional, even to a tight strike zone. He didn’t get flustered when something didn’t go his way, which sometimes has affected him int he past. I think he’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now.”
“I felt good,” Reeves said. “I felt like I needed to throw strikes more this time versus just striking people out, and it worked out. My team’s backing me up regardless. I know they’ve got my back no matter what.”
The final out of the game, which could have driven in the game-tying run, was squared up fairly well, but left fielder Easton Hart tracked it down without too much difficulty, ranging to his right. Hart was a defensive replacement in the seventh inning.
Westmoreland wouldn’t take credit for the effective move.
“The players make plays,” he said with a smile. “We just make moves.”
Overall, Reeves pitched a complete-game, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out three. In the losing effort, Latta was nonetheless dominant for Northside. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits and no earned runs. He struck out two.
The two teams play the rubber match of the series on Friday at Northside, where, once again, the standings could flip upside down in the region.
“We’re hoping we keep winning and we force other teams to win,” Westmoreland said. “I like where we are right now. We’re one back of Columbus. The next game is the biggest game of the year for us. And then after that, the next one. Right now, we’re looking at these six games as must-win games even if we just want to get in.”
Thursday at Harris County
Northside 000 000 1—1 5 2
Harris County 000 110 x—2 2 1
WP—Drew Reeves. LP—Jalen Latta. Leading hitters—Northside, Marcus Eberhart 1-3, Tyler Pace 1-3, 2B, R, Kenny Harrell 1-1, 2B, RBI, Chantler Valero 1-2, 2B, Aaron Newman 1-2; Harris County, Kurt Ornowski 1-2, RBI, Tyler Maley 1-3, RBI. Records—Northside, 12-7, 8-5; Harris County, 14-6, 8-4.