Certain perks are afforded when you’re a senior clean-up hitter.
Chief among them: Free-swinging on a 3-0 pitch with two outs and trailing in your team’s last at-bat.
Ah, those perks.
Houston Kennedy singled in two runs to tie the game at 4-4 in the seventh in that situation Monday against Northside. Then Austin Pittman hit a walk-off single in the ninth that gave Greenwood a 5-4 extra-innings win over Northside.
Kennedy’s hit was the sort that drew groans when the bat met the ball. It looked like a standard fly ball to right field, looping toward Max Schaffer. But Schaffer never saw it in the lights as it sailed 20 feet beyond him.
"I gave him the green light and he really didn’t hit the ball real hard, but he hit it in the right spot," Greenwood coach Randy Gardner said. "Tough sky, I think the right fielder lost it."
Greenwood (9-5, 3-2 7A/6A-Central) got walks by Hayden Harvey and Ethan Clark around a Chris Sunde sacrifice bunt and Jake Herrel singled to set up a bases-loaded opportunity for Pittman. He sent a ball deep to right well beyond the drawn-in outfielders to cap the comeback.
"That was tough," Northside coach Brian Fry said. "Tough knowing that you’re that close and just unfortunate they did plate those two runs. We got a little nervous right there in the last couple innings."
Northside (7-7, 3-2) took a 4-0 lead through three-and-a-half innings behind a pair of RBI singles from Grant Hood and Matt Johnson, an RBI double from Schaffer and an Ethan McNally run on an error.
Ethan Clark then singled, stole second base, took third on a groundout and scored on a Chris Davis single in the fourth. Davis scored on a Michael Nelson single one batter late to cut the Grizzlies lead in half and set the stage for Kennedy’s dramatics.
Fry knew almost immediately Kennedy’s ball was going to fall.
"He couldn’t see it at all. We knew right when the ball left the bat. He came in, deer-in-the-headlights look and, oh, man. That’s just baseball, I guess," Fry said.
Kennedy, Greenwood’s senior first baseman, looks the part of intimidating four-hole hitter. He’s burly and sports a bushy, thick red goatee. His batting average sat below .250 entering the game Monday after playing a key run-producing role for the Bulldogs conference winning team last year. Gardner had no hesitation letting him hit.
Well, maybe a little.
"Last year he was about a .450 hitter for us and this year he just hasn’t hit it as well. Everything else I was trying wasn’t working, so he got the green light," Gardner said.
Hayden Harvey scored the game-winning run and picked up the win in relief. He worked three innings of one-hit ball on the mound.
Grant Hood was the only Northside batter who collected more than one hit. The team had seven through nine innings and manufactured runs on a couple of bean-balls and a Greenwood error.
Greenwood starter Chris Hunt pitched well, save the couple of missed locations. He worked six innings and allowed four Northside runs on just six hits. He also had six strikeouts.
"The one inning they scored two, both guys that scored were on walks or hit-by-pitches," Gardner said. "He didn’t walk 20 people last season, but those walks starting off innings will get you in trouble. We didn’t do anything to help him win that game, but luckily he didn’t catch the loss on it."
It’s the second tough loss to Greenwood this season by Northside, though the previous one didn’t count toward the conference standings. The teams played an exhibition game that saw the Grizzlies lead 7-0 only to lose 8-7.
High School Baseball
Greenwood 5, Northside 4 (9 innings)
Northside 002 200 000 – 4 7 1
Greenwood 000 200 201 – 5 10 1
Sisemore, Coleman (5), Johnson (7), Neves (8) and McDonald; Hunt, Harvey (7) and Nelson. W – Harvey. L – Neves,