Greenwood will feel the sting of this one for a while.
Baseball games usually involve one key play that flips the momentum. Jonesboro’s 5-4 win against Greenwood in the 6A State Tournament title game had three events happen to swing the momentum.
"We were ready to come back and beat them," Jonesboro’s MVP catcher Will McCauley said of the team’s stunning comeback Saturday at Baum Stadium. "We battled the whole state tournament and we were ready to come back and beat them."
McCauley’s two-out, three-run homer in the sixth gave the Hurricane new life. Then his two-out, RBI single to right in the seventh capped a comeback that denied Greenwood its first state title since 2007.
"If we get that last out of the sixth inning, I’m pretty sure we’re having a different conversation right now," Greenwood coach Randy Gardner said. "That home run was more important than what happened in the next inning, because it gave them all the momentum and they were only down a run."
Sandwiched around McCauley’s homer were two defensive gems by Matthew Fitts. The left fielder — who robbed Greenwood’s Ethan Clark of extra bases in the first inning — threw out Austin Warren in the fifth inning and Jonathan Clemons in the sixth.
Warren’s out was especially crucial as the Bulldogs eventually pushed across a fourth run and would have had the bases loaded with nobody out and cleanup hitter Houston Kennedy stepping in to hit.
Instead, Kennedy struck out and eventual winning pitcher Sam Barre retired Austin Pittman on a fielder’s choice, escaping with just a 4-0 deficit.
"We had strikeout in that one inning and I had a kid thrown out at home," Gardner said. "The kid made two perfect throws from left. That’s why they won the game … they just made a few more plays."
After getting two quick outs in the Jonesoboro sixth, Wingo doubled and Rainwater hit a smash to deep short that looked if it was going to sneak through for a single. Instead of retreating to first, first baseman Kennedy instead was about to run behind second base to back up the throw from left field.
"I thought the ball went into left field," Kennedy said. "I was going to back up the throw from left field, and (Hayden) Harvey got it and I was caught in between."
Instead of putting the heel of his foot on the bag, Kennedy figured his only solution was to wing it.
"I knew I was going to have trouble trying to find it (bag)," Kennedy said. "So I figured the best thing to do was to try and tag him."
Kennedy whiffed, narrowly missing Rainwater. Five pitches later, McCauley homered. Greenwood’s four-run lead was suddenly just 4-3 with Jonesboro holding all the momentum.
"It felt like it was more of a lead," Gardner said. "We were in the middle of the order where we needed to be, with the bases loaded, and I think we had a strikeout. I don’t know what it is about baseball, but 5-0 is a whole lot better than 4-0."