There are times when it's better to be lucky than good.
East Hamilton coach Steve Garland might or might not agree, but he had to feel somewhat relieved on Monday night at Red Bank when his Hurricanes scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning to win the key District 6-AA game, despite getting only three hits for the game.
"Opportunistic," replied the veteran coach after a brief post-game talk with his team after they had improved to 9-6 overall and 7-0 in 6-AA.
East Hamilton, Red Bank and Central all entered the day's play unbeaten in district play, but the Hurricanes are now in a first-place tie with the Purple Pounders after they rallied for a 14-9 win over East Ridge earlier in the evening.
The Hurricanes and Lions have played some real classics in recent years and Monday's game was no exception.
Neither team ever really got the upper hand. It was a game where nobody had a lead for long.
East Hamilton scored twice in the first, but Red Bank answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.
East Hamilton went ahead 3-2 with a run in the second, only to watch as Red Bank knotted the score with a run in the third.
The Lions added a single run in the bottom of the fifth for a 4-3 lead, but the Hurricanes came right back to regain the advantage with two runs in the sixth.
Red Bank then tied the score with a single run in the sixth before East Hamilton scored the game-winner without a hit in the seventh.
The Lions had one final shot and came thisclose to tying the game, but it didn't happen as East Hamilton hung on for the win.
D.J. Hale had reached on his third straight hit with one out in the seventh. Ryder Pierce then ripped a shot down the line in right. The ball appeared to hit the line, but the home-plate umpire ruled it foul. Pierce then ripped a rope to short, which was snagged by Hunter Parker.
Hale had broken for second at the crack of the bat and was easily doubled off first as Parker flipped the ball to Austin Gatewood to end the game.
"It's nice to win a close district game like that, but another key for us was the fact that we didn't allow any walks. Red Bank has a fine team and I'm sure they'll be back tomorrow night, but I thought that we were really loose coming in and that made a difference," Garland added.
"Matty (Henshaw) missed some spots, but he always gives a great effort. He's 3-1 now. I thought Tanner Ungos came through in the clutch with his second save, but he gives us a different look. I was also happy that Hunter Owen got a huge hit. It's nice to see him come through," the coach added.
Landon Pauls had walked to lead off the East Hamilton sixth and scored when Owen ripped a double off the fence in left-center.
Owen advanced to third on the throw home and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
Red Bank coach Trey Hicks was convinced that the ball hit by Pierce was fair, but there was nothing he could do about it once the game ended.
"That ball hit the line, but the umpire said it was foul," Hicks began while members of his team were raking different parts of the infield.
"Hats off to East Hamilton. We threatened in a couple of innings, but we were never able to get a lead and that might have changed the complexion of the game. Hagen (Wilkey) was alright, although he lost his command at times. He gave us every opportunity to win.
"Those four errors may have cost us a few runs and you can't afford that in a big district game like this. We just have to come ready to play tomorrow. Every game with East Hamilton is intense and emotional, but we have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities. Tonight, we didn't," Hicks nodded.
Parker and Kyle Cox led off the game for the Hurricanes with walks and both scored, Parker on a fielder's choice by Pauls and Cox on a single by catcher Tyler Waters.
East Hamilton's run in the second crossed on Red Bank's second error while the two runs in the sixth were both earned.
Matt Milita beat out an infield single in the sixth after Owen's double while Waters' single in the first was the only other hit for the Hurricanes.
Hale had three hits for the Lions while Pierce and Johnny Goodman had two apiece. Gage Winton had an RBI-single in the first while Chapin Price had a single in the fifth and scored the go-ahead run for the Lions.
Pierce and Goodman both had back-to-back singles with one out in the first. Pierce then scored the first run on a sacrifice fly to center by Wilkey while Goodman scored on Winton's single.
Hale and Pierce had singles in the third for the Lions with Hale scoring run number three on a wild pitch.
Goodman's single in the fifth plated Price while Winton reached on an error to lead off the sixth, He advanced on a groundout to third before stealing third and scoring on a bad throw by Waters.
Henshaw was the winning pitcher after allowing five runs in six innings. He scattered eight hits while striking out six and walking none.
Wilkey was the Red Bank starter who allowed five runs on three hits in six innings. He also had five walks and a half-dozen strikeouts. He was replaced by sophomore Ben Brown in the seventh with the score tied after having thrown 116 pitches.
Brown was the tough-luck loser after allowing the winning run in the seventh. He struck out the side, but the two hit batters, the one walk and the wild pitch sealed his fate.
These same two teams play at Chattanooga State on Tuesday with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
East Hamilton 210 002 1 -- 6 3 2
Red Bank 201 011 0 -- 5 9 4
Henshaw, Ungos (7) and Waters; Wilkey, Brown (7) and Winton.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)