KATHLEEN -- The Perry baseball team battled from behind after receiving an excellent pitching performance, picking up a crucial 5-4 road victory over Veterans on Wednesday to take a two-game lead in the GHSA Region 2-AAAA standings.
“It’s just raw emotion from these guys who are working so hard, and they’re seeing some of the fruits of their labor,” Perry head coach Lorne Tucker said. “I’m just so excited for these guys. They’re doing all the work, and they’re taking me along for the ride.”
Veterans (8-8, 4-2 region) jumped on top 2-0 in the first on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Preston Sparks. His hit scored Gabe Holt and Tyler Daughtry, who both reached to start the inning off of Perry starter Drew Martens.
The Panthers (12-4, 6-0) pulled one back in the top of the second, but Veterans answered right away after a throwing error plated designated hitter Jacob Giles.
That set up a decisive third inning for the Perry offense. After a Parker Stahlman single and a Jake Farrell walk, Martens helped himself with an RBI double to the gap to pull within one. J.W. Gentry followed with a perfectly placed grounder behind the runners to tie the game, and Taylor Holtzclaw drove in the go-ahead score on a sacrifice fly to left field.
“We work on (situational hitting) all the time at practice,” Tucker said. “That’s why you’re a team. We preach that it’s not one person or two people, it’s the team. These guys just executed it flawlessly.”
Martens held the momentum by setting down the Warhawks in order in the third and the fourth. It was part of a stretch that saw him retire eight hitters in a row.
Veterans’ best chance to tie the game came in the fifth when it loaded the bases, but the Warhawks came away with just one run after Martens recorded a crucial strikeout. The left-hander struck out two more Warhawks hitters in the sixth and worked a perfect seventh against the heart of the Veterans lineup to seal the complete-game victory.
Martens finished with eight strikeouts. He surrendered two earned runs, five hits and three walks. The junior had complete command of a fastball and slider that he located repeatedly on the outside corner.
“I felt really good,” Martens said. “I felt like I could locate all of my pitches pretty well and get them where I wanted them. I started off a little rough and gave up a few runs. Luckily we were able to put up a couple of runs, and that just relaxed me a lot more. It let me go out there and just try to execute my pitches.”
The contest was rescheduled for Wednesday after weather forced a cancellation of Tuesday’s contest, which Perry led 5-2 in the fourth inning. GHSA rules stipulated that the game had to be replayed in its entirety.
“It was frustrating to our guys because they were so hyped up (Tuesday),” Tucker said. “We talked to them on the way home and these guys are so fired up, they’re so dialed in right now, and have bought in to what we’re trying to go for that I had no doubt they’d play well (Wednesday).”