One big inning lifts CAI over South Central
Christian Academy pitcher Trey Haendiges solved the South Central powerful offense June 2 along with using six Warrior runs in the fifth inning, two earned, to defeat the Rebels, 6-3, in the Class A South Central sectional final.
Through four innings, it was a duel between pitcher Chip Hockenbury and Haendiges. Rebel senior lead-off hitter Travis Higdon hit a double off the fence to start the bottom of the first inning. However, Haendiges retired the next three batters, escaping without damage.
Hockenbury was equal to his counterpart in the early going. He gave up two hits through four innings, striking out five during the span.
The Rebels broke on the scoreboard first in the fourth inning. Wes Hedden reached on a single and was plated by a two-out home run off the bat of Elliot Thompson. The shot to left field gave South Central a 2-0 lead.
CAI bounced back with six runs in the top of the fifth. Justin Sturgeon’s walk and a single from Paul Devore started the rally. A sacrifice bunt moved both into scoring position, but a pair of Rebel miscues led to runs. Consecutive infield errors allowed both to score, tying the game at 2.
Hockenbury then struck out J.B. Butner for the second out of the inning. Hockenbury’s counterpart, Haendiges, laced a single to left field, scoring the go-ahead run for the Warriors. Evan Strong then capped the lengthy inning with a three-run home run over the centerfield fence.
‘We made a few mistakes, and they had some good at-bats and took any momentum we had right back,’ South Central coach Nick Tremain said. ‘We didn’t have it very long.’
South Central made its best comeback bid in the seventh inning when it was down 6-2. Hockenbury and Thompson led off with singles. John Lopp followed with a ground out that plated Hockenbury. In the end, Haendiges was tough on the mound, striking out the final two batters, leading to the sectional title for CAI. He finished with 11 strikeouts, holding the Rebels to five hits.
‘As far as gutsy performances, the Haendiges kid was throwing on two days rest, and we didn’t hit the ball well enough off him to win,’ Tremain said. ‘It was hard for us to string together hits against him. We had a good at-bat here or there, but he didn’t allow us to get going.’
Hockenbury went 4-2/3 innings, striking out six while giving up two earned runs. Hedden pitched 2-1/3 scoreless innings in relief.
‘Chip pitched well, but we had some mistakes in the third inning and we weren’t able to work through it,’ Tremain said. ‘We needed to team up, but that was the difference in the game.’
It was the third time this season CAI knocked off South Central.
The Rebels graduated six senior starters, a group the coach said shouldn’t hang their heads.
‘I told this group that they accomplished a lot,’ he said. ‘Over their four years, we won a lot of baseball games. It is hard to see them go out this way, but they have to see what we accomplished as a group.’
South Central ended the season tied for the Southern Athletic Conference title and a 19-10 record.
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