Last season, T.L. Hanna came to Northwestern and lost a close game on a walk-off hit. Saturday afternoon, the Yellow Jackets turned the tables when Brent Reynolds hit a home run in the team’s last at-bat to defeat the Trojans 2-1 at Northwestern in the 4A baseball playoffs.
Hanna will host the winner of the J.L. Mann/Greenville on Monday, and Northwestern will host the loser of that game Monday at 6:30 p.m.
The game was tied at one in the top of the seventh after each team scored once in the sixth. Reynolds, who also had a sacrifice bunt in the game, led off the inning and worked the count to 3-2 before launching one over the fence in left field for the deciding margin.
“I’ve hit one (home run) before but not a game-winner,” Reynolds said. “This one is better. Adam needed some run support the way he was pitching. I feel like we can do something special.”
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Yellow Jackets coach Daniel Crenshaw said his guys feel confident in close games late.
“Over the last couple years we’ve won a lot of ballgames in our last at-bat,” Crenshaw said. “We came up here last year and got walked off on so we’ve been here before. Brent’s just a competitor. He’s what you want in a teammate. He battles his tail off and you know you’re going to get the most out of him. You knew he was going to get on base someway, but for him to square one up and hit it out of the ballpark, that was really big for us.”
Both teams’ defense let them down a little in the sixth inning. In the top half and with a runner on first, James Parker hit a line drive to short that Dupree Hart jumped high to get his glove on but was unable to make the catch. He still had a chance to get the runner at second for a force out, but his throw went wide and into right field to allow both runners to move up to second and third. Nick Whitfield then pushed a bunt towards first base and first baseman Eric Taylor’s shovel to the catcher was too late to get Chase Kinsey with the game’s first run.
The Yellow Jackets returned the favor in the home half of the inning. Hart led off with a sharp line drive single to center and Kinsey let it squirt by him, putting Hart at second. Cameron Smith bunted Hart to third, and then Grant Golke flew out to shallow center. Hart did not tag and head for home, but Kinsey air-mailed the throw over the catcher’s head, allowing Hart to hustle home and tie the score.
“We knew it was going to be very few runs scored with Hill (Adam) on the mound,” Northwestern coach Mitch Walters said. “We just felt fortunate because we blew one early, and we talked yesterday it was going to be whoever made the least mistakes. We made the most mistakes.”
South Carolina-commit Adam Hill was on the hill for the Yellow Jackets and went the distance. He allowed the one run on five hits while striking out 11 and walking two. Smith got the start and went five innings for the Trojans, not allowing a run on only two hits. He got out of a first-and-second with no outs situation in the second when Mikah Jones and Hart turned a slick double play and third baseman Will Hagood, who made several nice plays, made a nice diving stab and throw to end the inning.
Northwestern wasted a chance in the bottom half when Taylor, who was 2-for-3, led off with a triple to right field. The relay throw was over the third baseman’s head and Taylor headed for home, but Hill had backed up the play perfectly and nailed him easily at the plate for the first out of the inning.
Smith wiggled out of another T.L. Hanna threat in the fifth. Two walks and a base hit loaded the bases with two outs, but Aaron Copeland lined out to Hart at short to end the inning.
Hill, who his coach said lost some velocity because it was his first start in the afternoon heat, struck out two and sat the Trojans down in order in the seventh to end the game.
T.L. Hanna 2, Northwestern 1
Cameron Smith and Tripp Barringer. Adam Hill. WP - Hill. LP - Barringer. 2B - Matthew Reynolds (TL). 3B - Eric Taylor (NW). HR - Brent Reynolds (TL). Leading hitters: NW - Smith 1-2, Sac bunt; Taylor 2-3, SB; TL - Chase Kinsey 1-3, R; James Parker 1-2, BB; Nick Whitfield 1-1, BB, Sac bunt RBI; B. Reynolds 1-2, HR, Sac bunt. Records: T.L. Hanna 21-7.