MA's rally ends Tigers season

Published 2:09 pm Thursday, April 29, 2004

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
If the last week of the season is any indication, T.R. Miller Tiger baseball fans will probably hear the name of sophomore Jordan Cauley a lot over the next two years.
Cauley hit a three-run homer to help rally T.R. Miller to a victory over Monroe County and he had two hits and three RBIs in a first-round playoff win over Dadeville.
Cauley looked as if he would be in line for a hero's role again Saturday when he belted a three-run homer in the fourth inning of a second-round game against the Montgomery Academy Eagles. That hit turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 T.R. Miller lead.
Two innings later Montgomery Academy's Tripp Swann decided Cauley had been a hero long enough. Swann's two-run single tied the game, sparked a four-run rally and paved the way for the Eagles' 6-4 victory at the TRM Field.
Swann's clutch hit was just one of several key ones the Eagles (18-8) had in the game. At the same time, a lack of clutch hits led to T.R. Miller's downfall.
The Tigers (23-6) left at least two runners on base in five innings and 11 total for the game. T.R. Miller also lost another runner through a double play.
"We definitely had our chances, but they got the big hits and we didn't," T.R. Miller coach Jim Hart. "We've usually lived by the big inning this season a and today it was the big inning that beat us."
Saturday's playoff game was the rubber match between the two teams. The Tigers and Eagles had split a doubleheader in Montgomery last month.
T.R. Miller starting pitcher Patrick Sorrells allowed just three hits in his first five innings of work, but all three came in the first inning when the Eagles plated their first run.
Walter Parker led off with a single and moved into scoring position when Wes Cutcliffe grounded out. The key play in the inning came when Michael McNair hit a slow grounder between first base and the pitcher's mound. Tigers' first baseman Trent Davidson fielded the ball, but had nobody to throw to at first base. Parker moved over to third base on the play and scored when Sorrells uncorked a wild pitch.
Meanwhile T.R. Miller's offense was unable to get much of anything going against McNair on the mound.
After Jacob Salter led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, McNair retired eight of the next nine batters and five by strikeout. Ironically the lone batter to reach against McNair during that stretch was when Davidson struck out but reached on a wild pitch in the first inning.
McNair looked as if he would breeze through the fourth inning as well. He set down Jordan Ball and Kurt Prater to start the inning, but then Ryan Holland and Kyle Rush touched him for back-to-back singles.
That brought up Cauley, who rifled a shot over the wall in left-centerfield to put T.R. Miller in front 3-1.
The Tigers still had that 3-1 advantage one out into the sixth inning when the complexion of the game changed. Parker singled, Cutcliffe was hit by a pitch and McNair walked to load the bases.
That ended Sorrells' day on the mound and for the second playoff game in a row Hart turned to Brad Lannom to shut the door.
The frst batter Lannom faced was Swann, who hit a high linedrive that appeared to be headed into right-centerfield. Sorrells, who moved to second
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base in place of Cauley after he left the mound, dove full extension to his left and for a split second appeared he would make the sensational grab. Instead the ball shot off his glove and into rightfield. Two runs scored and suddenly the game was tied at 3-3.
The damage was not done though. Trey Hottsford hit an infield groundout, but that brought in McNair with the go-ahead run. Cole Wise then touched Lannom for an RBI single that extended Montgomery Academy's lead to 5-3.
The Tigers had a chance to erase that deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning. Cauley led off with a single before Salter hitinto a fielder's choice. Joseph Turner singled him over to third base and that was huge when moments later a passed ball allowed him to score and cut the gap to just 5-4.
Lannom walked, but Davidson hit into a double play that ended the threat with the Eagles still in front 5-4.
Montgomery Academy picked up a huge insurance run in the top of the seventh inning when a single and an error on a ball hit by Laslie Jones, a groundout and an RBI single by Alan Bishop made it 6-4.
Even with that run, the Tigers had another chance in their last trip to the plate.
Ball led off with a sharp grounder to Hottsford at second base, but Hottsford could not get a handle on the ball and the error allowed Ball to reach safely. Then a catcher's interference call with Prater at bat allowed him to reach and put the tying runs on base.
Then Holland and Rush both fanned and Cauley popped up to first base. Just like that the threat was over. So was the game and the Tigers' season.
"It hurts. I think both Montgomery Academy and us are good enough to be there at the end (of postseason). They're moving on and we're not," Hart said. "We don't have anything to be ashamed of. Our players had a great year and I've enjoyed it."
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