NEW HOPE — Even the best teams sometimes have to win ugly, especially in the postseason, and the New Hope High School baseball team did just enough to pull that off Friday night.
Adam Adair capped a six-run third inning with a two-run home run, Colin Perrigin pitched three innings of masterful relief, and the Trojans defeated Cleveland Central 8-5 in the first game of their second-round MHSAA Class 5A playoff series.
The Trojans made quick work of the Wolves in Game 2, scoring 10 runs in the first inning and cruising to an 18-3 win in five innings.
Friday’s game was tougher than many expected, as the Wolves finished the regular season 8-16 before a two-game sweep of Jim Hill in their opening series.
“They’re well coached, they made the routine plays, their pitchers throw strikes,” New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. “I don’t think we particularly did anything wrong defensively. I think we had one error, but those guys were tough outs.”
The key sequence of the game came in the top of the fourth, right after New Hope’s big inning. Starter Brant Smith had surrendered a run in the first and then set down the Wolves in order in the second and third before running into trouble.]
A double, a walk and a single plated a run and left runners on first and third for Wolves third baseman Caleb Carter. Trailing 6-2, Cleveland Central put on a squeeze on an 0-1 count. Carter could not get the bat on the ball, but Caleb Dodd scored from third anyway. One batter later, Jaylen McRoy lashed a two-run single to right-center, and suddenly it was 6-4.
In came Perrigin, who didn’t have it at first. He walked his first batter, and after a little squib in front of the plate fielded by catcher Hunter Carr, the Wolves had runners on second and third. The Trojans elected to put the next batter, leadoff man Gabe Lewis, on intentionally to load the bases.
That move seemed to backfire when Perrigin walked Nick Taylor on four pitches to force in a run to make it 6-5. But with the tying run at third and the bases loaded, Perrigin induced a harmless ground ball to second to get out of the inning.
The Wolves did not threaten again.
“I decided to focus up and throw strikes,” Perrigin said.
That he did. After hitting the first batter in the fifth, the sophomore retired the next seven batters he faced, the last five with strikeouts. By the time another Cleveland Central batter reached base, the Wolves were down to their final two outs.
“Colin came in and did a really good job,” Boyd said. “He struggled early, trying to find his breaking pitch. When he finally got the feel for his breaking pitch, he settled down and pitched really well.”
Perrigin’s effort made that six-run third stand up, and that rally was an odd mix of clutch hits, miscues and a very close play at first.
Hayden Dodson started the rally with a one-out single, and the Trojans elected to sacrifice him to second. Caden Perrigin laid down a good bunt and just beat the throw to first, although there were several in attendance with an opposing view.
Gates Gerhardt followed with an RBI single, and then Hunter Carr’s grounder to second was mishandled, allowing a second run to score. Smith then singled home Gerhardt.
Colin Perrigin hit a high pop between home and first that fell to the turf in between three Wolves fielders. Instead of an unproductive second out, he hit a grounder to short that scored Carr.
Up came Adair, who attempted a bunt on the second pitch but had a better idea on the fifth, sending a drive over the fence in left for a 6-1 lead.
“That was his first home run of the year,” Boyd said. “He’s done a lot in BP, but hadn’t hit one for a while.”
Armed with a five-run lead and not allowing a baserunner the past two innings, the Trojans appeared to have the game under control.
“We got it to 6-1 right there, and we kind of felt good about ourselves,” Boyd said. “You’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit. They came back the next inning and put up a four-spot to cut it to 6-5.
And then Colin Perrigin took care of business.
“Locate the fastball, mix in the curveball,” was the formula, he said, and that was enough.
New Hope loaded the bases with one out in the fourth but could not score, then added two runs without a hit in the sixth. The Wolves outhit the Trojans 6-5.
“They kept us on our toes, and we’re happy to get a win,” Boyd said.
New Hope 18, Cleveland Central 3: The Trojans sent 16 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring 10 runs on seven hits in Cleveland.
The big blows in the inning were a bases-loaded double by Adam Adair, an RBI double by Caden Perrigin and a two-run triple by Gates Gerhardt.
Hunter Carr’s two-run home run to right capped a seven-run third inning for New Hope.
Three New Hope pitchers combined for six strikeouts and one walk while limiting the Wolves to four hits.
Adair doubled twice, and Gerhardt hit two triples as the Trojans totaled 12 hits.
The win sends New Hope into the third round against Region 3 champion Neshoba Central, who defeated Lake Cormorant in two games.