Eagles KO Amite, head to South State

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 4, 2001

[05/04/01] Holding a 1-0 lead in its best-of-three playoff series with Amite, Porters Chapel Academy didn’t exactly have its back against the wall in Game 2 Thursday, but the Eagles played like they did.

PCA rallied back from a pair of three-run deficits to take a wild 11-8 win and advance to the South State championship series.

“This is a huge hurdle, because we’ve never played for this, for a South State championship,” said PCA pitcher Trey White, who threw five innings of relief to get the win. “We’ve always had to go through University Christian and never been able to do it. And this year we’re there, we did it. We’re the team people have to go through.”

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PCA will now face Huntington (La.) in a best-of-three series beginning Tuesday. The time and site of Game 1 will be determined by a coin flip today. Huntington (22-5) dropped Game 1 of its second-round series against Franklin, but swept Thursday’s doubleheader 7-2 and 12-6 to advance.

In the North half of the bracket, Rossville (Tenn.) swept a doubleheader from DeSoto (Ark.) to advance to the North State championship against Heidelberg, which beat Kemper Academy 16-3 to complete a two-game sweep.

Against Amite, Kyle Ehrhardt went 0-for-4 for PCA (19-10), but drove in two runs including the go-ahead run on a fifth-inning sacrifice fly. Heath Smith pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the save and had two RBIs, and Dustin Abbott, Jeremiah Riggs, T.J. Smith, Clayton Hensley and Trey White each had two hits.

Down 8-6 heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles rallied with some hustle and scrappy play.

Hensley led off with an infield single on a play where the pitcher failed to cover first. T.J. Smith followed with a single, and Riggs slid into first for a bunt single to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Josh Rush followed with a check-swing RBI single to cut it to 8-7, and T.J. Smith scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Ehrhardt’s sacrifice fly gave PCA a 9-8 lead, and Heath Smith’s squeeze bunt made it 10-8.

T.J. Smith hit a solo home run in the sixth to make it 11-8.

“The bottom line is, we don’t make the routine plays again. They made the routine plays and that’s what wins ballgames,” said Amite coach Eddie Harden, whose team committed eight errors in a Game 1 loss and 11 in the series.

PCA ace Heath Smith entered in the seventh in relief of White and made the lead hold up. He allowed a leadoff single to Amite right fielder Clay Brecheen, but induced a double-play grounder from No. 9 hitter Austin Bean and struck out Bobby Lee Nelson to end the game.

“We got down early and they battled and fought back and showed great character coming back and winning the ballgame and doing the things it took to win. We fought hard all day long,” Wright said. “There is no question that it was very obvious that we wanted this game won real bad.”

White allowed nine hits and two earned runs in five innings of relief. He came on for Andrew Embry, who started but struggled with his control.

Embry walked two and hit four batters in one-inning plus. The Eagles got out of the first inning down only 1-0, but White allowed two inherited runners to score on RBI singles by Jeremy Perkins and William Dillon.

PCA came back with five runs in the bottom of the second to take the lead, however.

Three errors by Amite (16-15), RBI groundouts by Ehrhardt and Riggs and an RBI single by Heath Smith keyed the rally, but the lead was short-lived.

Amite hit White hard in the third, ripping four singles. Bean’s RBI single cut it to 5-4, and the Rebels tied the game on an error two batters later. Shortstop Stewart Gordon followed with a two-run single to give Amite a 7-5 lead, and losing pitcher John Birdsong led off the fourth with a home run to make it 8-5.

Walter Bliss’ RBI double scored Dustin Abbott to cut it to 8-6 in the bottom of the fourth.