Coach Colton Green was a senior at Hixson the last time the Wildcats advanced to the region in baseball, but it happened again on Monday night at Central's Gene Lively Stadium.
Facing top-seeded Central in the winners bracket final of the District 6-AA tournament, the Wildcats had to play an extra inning, but all was well following a single by sophomore Bradley Burris with two outs in the eighth that drove in Alex Prewitt with what turned out to be the winning run.
Hixson is now a regional qualifier after the 2-1 victory.
"I've just got to be clutch in a situation like that, but I heard everyone cheering for me when I came to bat and I knew I had to do something," the sophomore second baseman said after helping his team win for the 20th time against just 11 losses.
"I felt good when I hit it and I was just hoping we'd score," he added.
While Burris is one underclassman who made a big difference, freshman Tanner Moylan was another as he went the distance and got the win.
The 15-year-old southpaw scattered a half-dozen hits while striking out seven. He also walked two and hit a pair, but he was all smiles once this game finally ended.
"This was a huge win for us as this is the first time we've gone to the region since 2008," he explained.
"I guess this was my best game of the year as I was able to hit my spots as I forced them to hit grounders and flies for outs," he added after improving to 6-2 for the season.
These two teams split during the regular season, but Monday's game was by far the best of the three. While Moylan was credited with the win, Central's Dakota Fowler pitched a whale of a game as well.
He was the losing pitcher, but there was certainly nothing losing about his performance as he allowed two runs on seven hits while walking four. He also had a season-high 12 strikeouts.
Central took a 1-0 lead in the first while Hixson evened the score with a run in the fifth.
Andrew McDaniel reached first on an infield hit before going to second on a passed ball. Tyler Lowe then drove him in with the first of four straight singles.
Hixson answered in the fifth when Burris led off with a single to right. He went to second on a sacrifice bunt by John Mulkey before scoring on a double into the left-field corner by Moylan.
The Pounders had plenty of chances the rest of the way, but couldn't get a key hit with runners in scoring position. Central left seven runners stranded in the last six innings.
Prewitt and Burris were the only two Hixson players with two hits as they saved their best for the final inning.
Lowe got his fourth-straight single with one out in the eighth and advanced to second when the ball was misplayed in center.
Gabe Fomby then flied to left for the second out, but the game ended when pinch runner Jake Hood was thrown out at third following the catch in left.
Hixson's Green was a happy fellow following Saturday's 8-3 win over Tyner. He was even happier following Monday's win over the top-seeded Purple Pounders.
"We had some ups and downs early, but we just kept battling and came through when it mattered," the first-year coach explained.
"Bradley Burris is sometimes to passive at the plate, but I just told him to be aggressive and go to right if he could. That's exactly what he did. Pitching and defense have been our strong point all year and they were certainly the key tonight, despite that late error in center," Green nodded.
Central coach Glenn Carter could only shake his head following the one-run loss.
"I'm really disappointed as we missed way too many opportunities throughout the game," Carter said after his team dropped to 16-18 for the season.
"We had plenty of runners on base, but couldn't get anybody in. We've struggled like that all year offensively. Dakota pitched a great game, certainly good enough for a win. He did a great job of holding them at bay, but he made one bad pitch in the eighth.
"We just didn't do our part offensively. Now we get to play Red Bank again Tuesday night. If we don't hit any better, it could be a long game," Carter concluded.
Red Bank earned the right to face Central with a 10-5 win over Tyner in Monday's first game. The game on Tuesday will be the fourth meeting of the season with Central having won all three by identical 5-4 scores.
HIXSON 000 010 01 -- 2 7 1
CENTRAL 100 000 00 -- 1 6 0
Moylan and Gilkey; Fowler, Lowe (8) and Ford.
(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)