After topping district foe Newton County Academy 12-6 Friday and demolishing Sacred Heart in a non-district contest Saturday, Sylva-Bay Academy needed another win Tuesday night at home to improve the outlook of the upcoming playoffs. The Saints got the job done in fashion, blanking Prentiss Christian School 8-0.
The victory moved the Saints to 8-7 overall and 4-1 in MAIS AA District 4 play, and set up a district championship series next week against Brookhaven Academy.
“This was a huge district win for us tonight that set us up for a district championship series with Brookhaven Academy,” said Sylva-Bay head coach Cole Holden. “We play in such a competitive district that every win or loss matters, but we control our own destiny.”
Saints pitchers Eli Blackwell and Tanner Cotten took control of the game Tuesday night. Blackwell went five innings for Sylva-Bay, allowing only three hits and walking three. He fanned five while earning the win. Cotten was untouchable in his relief role, striking out the sides in the sixth and seventh innings to complete the shutout and to earn the save.
Eli Blackwell got out of an early bases loaded jam in the first inning, and it took Sylva-Bay three frames to put a run on the scoreboard. Cade Blackwell doubled to left to lead off the bottom of the third, and Wyatt Polk safely bunted to advance Blackwell to third. Keegan Tumblin hit a high fly ball that was misplayed by the center fielder, and Blackwell touched the triangle for the Saints’ first run. Prentiss Christian got out of the inning, stranding two Saints runners, on an infield pop-up and a strike out.
Sylva-Bay broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth with a little small-ball that was very effective.
“Bunting and running the base paths effectively is something we have worked a lot on since day one, and we try to implement it in game situations any chance we get,” Holden mentioned. “The kids did a great job of executing tonight.”
Ty Duvall led off the bottom of the fourth for Sylva-Bay with a double, and Eli Blackwell reached on a bunt that pushed Duvall to third. Denver Westbrook safely bunted, and Duval scored. During the play, Eli Blackwell also scored on a throwing error to give the Saints a 3-0 cushion, and Westbrook advanced to second base. During the third bunt of the inning, Austin Thornton put down a sacrifice that advanced Westbrook to third. Cade Blackwell later walked, and a balk allowed Westbrook to plate a run. Cade Blackwell, with one out, stole second and third on separate pitches during Wyatt Polk’s at-bat., and Polk eventually scored Cade Blackwell with a double to left field to give Sylva-Bay a 5-0 lead. Prentiss Christian eventually got out of the inning on a fly out and an infield grounder punched out at first base.
Eli Blackwell produced a three-up-three down top of the fifth, and the Saints added a run in the bottom portion of the inning. Cotten ripped a hot shot down the left field line for a double, and Brandon Jones entered the game to pinch run for Cotten. Prentiss Christian grabbed two quick outs, but before the inning was over, Westbrook hit a towering blast into the right field corner that scored Jones to hand the Saints a 6-0 lead.
Cotten entered the game in relief in the top of the sixth, and quickly and consecutively sat down three Prentiss Christian batters on strikeouts. Sylva-Bay added the final two runs of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Cade Blackwell and Polk walked to open the inning, and a double steal landed them on second and third with no outs. Another balk in the game allowed Cade Blackwell to touch the plate, and a Tumblin sacrifice fly scored Polk before the inning ended.
During the bottom of the seventh, Cotton went right back to work on the hill. He finished the game for the Saints with three more consecutive strikeouts.
Westbrook and Polk led the Saints at the plate with two hits and an RBI apiece. Cotten also had two hits in the game and three stolen bases. Tumblin and Eli Blackwell also had an RBI. Cade Blackwell, Phillip Anderson, and Polk each had two stolen bases during the game.
The Saints will face Prentiss Christian again on the road this Thursday before the series with Brookhaven Academy next Monday and Tuesday. Sylva-Bay will host Brookhaven Monday at 6:30 p.m., and will travel Tuesday for game two set for 6:30 p.m. in Brookhaven.
(Article by Heath Walley)