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Tigers notch decisive win over Blue Eagles

By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
Not only did a March 11 matchup between the home-standing W.S. Neal Blue Eagles and T.R. Miller Tigers carry the weight of an intense cross-town rivalry, it also had serious playoff implications. While the Tigers entered the Area-1 contest looking for a win that would clinch at least a tie for the regular-season area title, the Blue Eagles needed a victory to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
When all was said and done, Miller exited the game with a 14-1 victory while improving to 11-7 on the season and 3-1 in the area. On the other hand, Neal's loss was not only bitterly disappointing, but also dropped the Blue Eagles to 8-9 overall and 0-3 against area competition.
The contest belonged to the Tigers from the outset. In the top of the first inning, Trent Davidson's line drive base hit into left field allowed Brad Lannom to cross home plate for a 1-0 Miller lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Daniel Hodge put the Blue Eagles in a threatening position with a one-out line drive shot into right field. However, the Miller defense responded with a double play that thwarted Neal's efforts at a rally and preserved the 1-0 lead.
The Tigers continued building their lead in the top of the second. Led by Russell Bagwell's two-RBI base hit, Miller scored four more runs that forced the Blue Eagles into a comeback mode while padding the Tigers cushion to 5-0.
Neal received good offensive production to cut the deficit in the bottom of the third. Cory Freeman led the inning off with a single before moving to third on Justin Smith's double. Freeman then came home on a Hodge sacrifice fly that made the score 5-1.
If Miller's command of the game was in question as the Tigers came to bat in the top of the fourth, they were answered with their nine-run offensive explosion. Although Blue Eagle walks, passed balls and wild pitches contributed to Miller's big inning, the Tigers' ability to swing the bats with authority was the most important factor in the scoring frenzy. Singles by James Martin and Jacob Salter got things going, and then clutch RBI hits by Bagwell, Randy Holland and Ryan Holland lifted Miller to a 14-1 advantage as the teams headed to the fifth inning.
Brandon Douglas, who came on in relief for the Blue Eagles, recorded two strikeouts and delivered a groundout pitch for the third out as he sat the Tigers down in order in the first half of the fifth.
By shutting-down the Blue Eagle bats in the bottom half of the fifth, Miller starting pitcher Kurt Prater put the wraps on the 14-1 win as the game ended after five innings due to the 10-run rule.
Prater gave-up only four hits over five innings while notching the win.
Russell Bagwell led the Tiger offense by going 2-2 with three RBIs while Daniel Hodge went 1-for-2 with one RBI to pace the Blue Eagles.