WARNER ROBINS -- Base hits are a highly desirable means of generating runs, but they are not necessarily required.
Houston County enjoyed that truth Thursday night, keeping its GHSA Class AAAAA baseball title defense hopes alive in the process.
Despite being no-hit in the second game of their Region 2-AAAAA playoff series against Lakeside-Evans, the Bears still prevailed, as a run scored by Hunter Phillips in the seventh inning was enough to give Houston County a 1-0 win to stave off elimination.
“It’s a testament to these kids, they fought and scrapped. We just got a couple of lucky breaks in that inning, and sometimes that is all you need. Baseball is a funny game,” Houston County head coach Jason Brett said. “You can outhit your opponent and lose. It’s a crazy game. I’ll be honest, I have never been as happy to be part of that end of a no-hitter than I am (Thursday).”
Lakeside (10-11) won the first game 1-0, scoring in the top of the seventh for its win, as well. The third game is at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Houston County (13-9), with the winner securing a spot in the Class AAAAA playoffs and the loser closing out its season.
“We knew if we didn’t win, it was the end of our season, and we didn’t want that,” said Houston County pitcher Kyle Parry, who got the win in relief in the second game.
Phillips and his teammates wound up on the winning end of a pitchers’ duel in the second game. Phillips took the loss in the first game, the only blemish being a seventh-inning run scored on a Peyton Jones single to bring in Brandon Hensley.
The Bears’ best scoring chance in the opener was in the sixth inning, when pinch-runner Avery Anderson was thrown out trying to score from third on a sacrifice fly.
The Bears managed a combined four hits Thursday, something that Brett said will be focused on before Saturday.
“We obviously didn’t have our best offensive day,” Brett said. “That is something that we can come out and address (Friday), rain or shine. We’ll work on trying to get some of those mistakes fixed. All we have to do is win one; it’s a one-game series now.”
In the second game, it was Houston County’s turn to scratch out a late run. Phillips reached on a walk, advanced to second on a balk and moved up to third and later scored on a pair of wild pitches by Panthers pitcher Jake Gilbert.
One run was enough to win as a result of the Bears’ pitching. DL Hall threw five scoreless innings, giving up five hits.
Brett handed affairs over to Parry in the sixth. And while the Panthers threatened, loading the bases in both the sixth and the seventh, Parry escaped.
A two-out flyout by Parker Leathers ended the sixth.
In the seventh, with the stakes raised higher with Houston County, batting first as the designated visiting team, ahead 1-0, things got tense again. A walk and hit batsmen put two runners on with an out, and an intentional walk with two outs to hot-hitting Cameron Johnson loaded the bases. But the threat ended there, as a fly ball by Brandon Van Arsdale into shallow center field was caught by a diving Josh Profit, and the Bears survived to play another day.
“Honestly, I wasn’t feeling much pressure at all,” Parry said. “I was just focused on getting the ‘W.’ I knew when we got that run, that was the ball game.”