On May 9, the Wildcats outlasted Mary Persons with a 7-3 victory at home in Game 3 and punched their first ticket to the Elite Eight in the program’s fourth year of existence.
“This is a good group of kids,” Locust Grove coach Stephen Phillips said. “They’ve worked hard for four years. This is just a payoff for it. We faced a great opponent who battled us to the end and my hat is off to Mary Persons and their coaching staff and the job they’ve done this year.”
Sophomore Tyler Sellers drove in three runs and junior John Shoemaker added two RBI, while junior Dalton Kuhn struck out nine batters in six innings.
“Dalton is a competitor and he did that the whole time and I’m proud of him,” Phillips said. “I’m proud of the whole team to get to this point.”
Because of a number of miscues, the Wildcats did not take control of the game until the seventh. With a 4-3 lead, junior Cortez McDowell stretched a single into a double and moved to third on a bunt single by Josh Fellows. A batter later, Sellers tripled to right and both runners came home for a 6-3 advantage.
Two batters later, the Bulldogs helped the Wildcats’ cause again when an error by the second baseman allowed Sellers to score.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kuhn walked the first batter and surrendered a single to the second, making Phillips turn to Tyler Duncan as the pressure began to build.
But Duncan had his teammate’s back. First, he struck out Bryson Jackson swinging, then Jay Green looking and retired Hunter Cranford after gloving the softly hit groundball and running to touch first himself.
“These kids are battled tested,” Phillips said. “They’ve been in situations all year.”
Earlier in the contest, Locust Grove wasn’t as sharp which allowed Mary Persons to score on passed balls in the third and fourth innings and pull even at 3-3.
But the Bulldogs returned the favor when Josh Mays dropped a routine fly ball in left field, allowing Fellows to move into scoring position and score on an RBI single to right by Shoemaker.
“We capitalized on a few of their mistakes and good teams do that so I’m just proud of them,” Phillips said.
Locust Grove will host Redan in a doubleheader Tuesday and in a third game Wednesday, if necessary.