Thompson’s Ma’Kale Holden hits walk-off home grand slam in decisive game 3 against Spain Park

Published 6:45 pm Saturday, April 27, 2024

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ALABASTER – Down by three runs with the bases loaded and the season on the line, Thompson’s Ma’Kale Holden stepped to the plate hoping to at least keep the inning going and his team’s chances alive. He did much more than that.

In a 3-2 count, and facing the third Spain Park pitcher of the inning, Holden gave the home crowd the most exciting moment of an exhilarating three-game series when he blasted a ball deep to left field.

As the ball carried toward the fence, the gasp of the crowd in anticipation quickly erupted as the ball cleared the fence for a walk-off grand slam that sent the crowd and players into a frenzy.

The rare sight gave Thompson a 13-12 win in the rubber match of a three-game series that featured a combined 70 runs and 70 hits between Friday and Saturday.

Holden’s walk-off grand slam kept Thompson’s season alive, as the Warriors overcame a game one loss of 17-8 in the series by winning 11-9 in game two and then 13-12 in nine innings in game three.

Holden finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBIs, but it was more than just his effort at the plate, as Thompson totaled 11 hits in a special game that saw them comeback on multiple occasions.

The back-and-forth battle, which was fitting for a series of shifting momentum, started in the opening three innings.

Spain Park scored the first four runs of the game with three in the top of the second and one more in the top of the third, but the Warriors had an answer in the bottom of the third.

Thompson scored three in the inning with an RBI single from Peryn Bland the highlight before good base running from Bland and Drake McBride gave the Warriors two more runs to cut the deficit to 4-3.

Following a scoreless fourth inning, the Jags extended their lead by one in the top of the fifth, only to see Thompson come right back in the home half and tie it with a swing of the bat when Ethan Crook drove a two-run home run over the left-field wall.

That evened the score at 5-5, but the Jaguars put together a big three-run top of the sixth that looked like it might be too much to overcome.

The Warriors did get one back in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-6 thanks to a sac fly from Brayden Smith, but Spain Park followed with a big insurance run in the top of the seventh to go back up by three.

That set up the first of two special innings for Thompson.

Trailing by three runs entering the home half of the final inning, Thompson put together clutch plate appearances quickly.

The Warriors struck with two straight singles from Tucker Arrington and D’Marion Terrell, which set the stage for a two-RBI double from McBride. That was quickly followed by the game-tying RBI single from Ethan Crook, which ultimately kept the game alive.

Spain Park was able to get out of the jam with three straight fly outs, stranding the game-winning run for Thompson and forcing extra innings.

The eighth came and went quietly in a tense inning that had both fan bases on pins and needles, but the ninth is where the emotions matched that of the most intense roller coaster ride you could imagine.

Spain Park scored three runs in the top of the ninth thanks to an RBI single from Chapman Blevins, a sac fly from Aiden Berke and an RBI single from Sam Waldrop.

That gave the Jags a three run lead heading to the bottom half and put them three outs from advancing to the quarterfinals of the playoffs, but as we learned throughout the series, no lead was safe with these two offenses.

The Warriors quickly loaded the bases with a walk from Terrell and back-to-back singles from McBride and Crook, which led to two pitching changes for the Jags.

Holden then stepped to the plate and got ahead quickly in the count with two straight balls, before a strike, a ball and another strike set up a full count.

With no outs in the inning, he took advantage of the situation and got the perfect pitch to drive deep to left field and over the wall for the walk-off grand slam to keep Thompson’s season alive and send the Warriors to the quarterfinals of the Class 7A playoffs.

Holden’s four RBIs led the way for the Warriors, while Crook finished 3-for-4 in the game with three RBIs. McBride added two hits and two RBIs, while Bland finished with one hit and an RBI. Smith also added an RBI in the win, while Terrell added two hits.

On the mound, Arrington, Ben Ferrell, Bland, Caden Wooten and Terrell each shared time in a team effort to help Thompson survive and advance.

The Warriors will now take on Bob Jones in next week looking for a trip back to the Class 7A semifinals for the second year in a row. Last year, the two met at Bob Jones and the series went three games with the Warriors winning a 6-5 thriller in game three.