There’s no panic in the dugout for the Urchins. Despite a 12-1 setback to Taylorsville in the first game of the 2A state championship on Wednesday, East Union has confidence heading into Friday’s game two with both of its top pitchers rested and ready to go.
Young arms saw action for the Urchins on Wednesday, with freshman Witt Roaton getting the nod for the start. Appearing in only his fifth game this season, Roaton threw almost six complete innings, allowing seven runs with five strikeouts.
“We had all the confidence in the world in Witt, and he’s pitched in big games for us in the past,” East Union head coach Chris Basil said. “He did an absolutely tremendous job today, and he had no help in that one inning. They dropped five on us, and it was heartbreaking. He did a great job, and I’m proud of him.”
Roaton and the Urchins’ defense got out of the top of the first after the Tartars placed runners on the corners. In the second, however, Taylorsville scored five runs off three hits, including a two run single by Carr McMorris, scoring the game’s first runs. An infield error later in the frame put the Tartars up 5-0.
“I was nervous, but I knew I had the guys behind me to help make plays,” Roaton said. “I struggled in the second inning, but I pulled through for the rest of the time I was in. “
The Urchins faced Taylorsville’s top pitcher in Sam Walley, and despite a few hits early in the game, could not bring any runs in, leaving six on base during the first five innings.
“It’s hard, after playing on Monday, to come back out here right away with only practice on Tuesday,” Basil said. “It’s hard to work on adjustments, but he’s (Walley) a tremendous player. I thought we started to get to him a little bit, but we couldn’t put anything together.”
The Tartars added two runs in the sixth on a triple by Brody Bray, and Taylorsville went up 12-0 in the seventh, scoring five runs off six hits, including a two run double by Walley and a two run single by Bray. Bray finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBI, while McMorris and Kaden James each had two hits for the Tartars.
East Union’s lone run came in the seventh after Walley was replaced by Michael Westbrook. With two outs and Austin Basil on first, Trey Barkley was walked, and a double by Dustin Pratt plated Basil. Pratt, along with Tyler Hutcheson and Alex Boland are in Pearl for the second time in their career, as the trio were members of the last East Union team at state in 2007.
“It’s very exciting to come back here to fight for a state championship,” Pratt said. “I have the opportunity to be here both my first and last years, and it’s just exciting. It’s a great privilege. “
Pratt led the Urchins’ offense with three hits. Looking ahead to game two on Friday, Pratt said that better adjustments need to be made on offense in order for East Union to be successful.
“We just need to see it and hit it and have better defense, for sure,” he said. “They came in throwing 86, 87, and we saw pitches in the 70’s last week. We had some adjustment problems, so we need to work on that for Friday.”
East Union will also look forward to one of its top pitchers returning to the mound in either Cody Bo Dillard or Austin Sanders. The two pitched on Sunday and Monday for the north half finals and will be rested and prepared for the remainder of the series. Basil emphasized the confidence in his team when one of the seniors is on the mound.
“The good thing is we pitched eighth and ninth graders, saving our number ones,” he said. “With them out there, it gives our kids a lot of confidence. We’re looking forward to the match up.”
Game two will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Friday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.