Thompson loses painful game to miss playoffs

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

VESTAVIA HILLS – For the second year in a row, the Thompson Warriors’ baseball team went into the sixth inning with a lead in a win-or-go-home game against the Vestavia Hills Rebels to determine their playoff fate on Thursday, April 19.

In last year’s game, the Warriors held a 2-1 lead after five innings and went on to lose 4-2.

In 2018, the fortune wasn’t any less gut-wrenching.

After scoring three runs in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead, Thompson gave up one run in the bottom half of the inning, but still held a one-run lead heading to the sixth.

A scoreless sixth inning and top half of the seventh, Thompson held a 4-3 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh looking to get redemption against the Rebels and clinch a playoff berth.

It took just two pitches before things started to get nerve-wracking for the Warriors.

J.C. Parker, who was looking to finish off a complete-game win, was locked in on the mound all afternoon, but Vestavia got some help early in the final inning as the Rebels started at the top of their order.

After a single from Chris Dugas put the leadoff hitter aboard, Ben Saway laid down a bunt looking to move the runner into scoring position. The throw from Thompson’s catcher ended up sailing just over the outstretched glove of the Warriors’ first baseman, leading to Dugas moving to third and Saway being safe at first.

With runners on the corners, Andrew Knight stepped to the plate and hit a pop fly to shallow left field. The awkward ball saw left fielder Josh Huner, who had made two spectacular catches in the game, take one step back before being forced to charge in to attempt a catch, while the shortstop was also running backward to attempt to catch the ball as well.

Instead, with both in hot pursuit, it led to confusion as the ball dropped in between both players, and on a ball that wasn’t deep enough to drive in the run from third, all of a sudden, Dugas was able to score while both base runners moved into scoring position still with no outs.

After loading the bases with an intentional walk, Luke Whitaker came to the plate looking to win the game for the Rebels.

Whitaker went on to take a first-pitch strike, before then fouling off six balls in a 10-pitch at bat. On the 10th pitch, however, Whitaker was able to get just enough on a ground ball up the middle to drive in Dugas for the game-winning walk-off run for the 5-4 victory.

Thompson held a 1-0 lead for the first three and a half innings of the game after Parker helped himself out with an RBI-double in the first inning that scored Myles Brown.

Early in the game, Vestavia left a couple of base runners in scoring position, but in the fourth, the Rebels were finally able to capitalize with two runs to take a 2-1 lead.

That was followed by an impressive top half of the fifth inning where Parker helped himself out again with a two-RBI single to score Grayton Arrington and Nick Walker, before Nick Freeman scored on a wild pitch to give Thompson a 4-2 lead.

The Warriors then went on to commit all four of their errors in the game over the final three innings defensively to allow the Rebels a chance at the win, which they capitalized on.

Despite the tough ending for Parker, he had an unbelievable final game in Thompson red and black and there was nobody else the team wanted out there in that situation.

He finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs, while also pitching the entire game and allowing just six hits and two earned runs and striking out four.

Brown also finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate, while Walker was 2-for-2 and Freeman was 2-for-3. All three of those players also scored a run for the Warriors, who finished the season 21-19.