It’s easy to let a tough loss snowball into something bigger and something tougher to overcome. But on Thursday afternoon the Sonoraville Phoenix showed their determination and mental fortitude as they didn’t allow that to happen, and that meant extending their season for at least one more day.
The Phoenix held a 7-1 lead at one point and a 7-5 advantage going to the final inning in Game 1 of their Class AAA State Tournament First-Round series vs. White County, but the Warriors rallied back in the seventh to score four runs and steal the opening contest by a 9-7 score.
Sonoraville didn’t hang their heads, however, even after falling behind 3-0 early in Game 2, as they battled back for one run in the fourth and four in the fifth and held on from there to earn a 6-4 victory to split the doubleheader and force a decisive Game 3 on Friday.
“We came out in the first game and built a 7-1 lead, but (White County) was scrappy and cut our lead down to two with three outs to go,” said Sonoraville head coach Deron Walraven. “Give credit to them. They put some hits together in that last inning and scored four runs to turn the game around. We got the tying run to the plate in the bottom half of the inning but couldn’t get one any in. And then in Game 2 for us to fall behind early, our guys could’ve laid down and felt sorry for themselves, but they fought and fought and fought, and got back in the game. We put together that big fifth by getting some big hits and taking advantage of some mistakes. I couldn’t be more proud of our boys to find a way to split and get a chance to play tomorrow with the season on the line.”
After White County (20-11) scored three runs in the third in Game 2 to take the lead, the Phoenix settled down from there and started their comeback with a solo homer in the top of the fourth by Hayden Holsomback. That started the momentum that continued in the top of the fifth for Sonoraville (18-11) where they were able to push across four runs. Tanner Folds came up with a huge two-out, two-run double to tie the game at 3-3, and that was followed by a run scoring on an error and Cole Gross completing the four-run surge in the inning with an RBI-single to make it 5-3.
Sonoraville added to their lead in the top of the seventh on an RBI-double by Jax Lockaby to make it 6-3, and Lockaby finished things off on the mound in the seventh, allowing one run but no more to secure the 6-4 victory. Lockaby came on in the second inning of Game 2 following starting pitcher Zach Lyles having to leave the game with an injury, and all the senior did was pitch six innings to earn the win, giving up four runs (two earned) on nine hits while striking out four.
“Jax came in on short notice after Zach’s shoulder soreness flared up and did what he has done all year for us…fill up the zone,” said Walraven. “The guys made plays behind him, and he made some big pitches. He was shutdown in the fourth, fifth and sixth. (White County) tried to put together a little rally in the seventh, but he was able to finish it out for us. I’m so proud of him for stepping up the way he did for us today. We probably wouldn’t be playing tomorrow if he didn’t come in and do what he did for us today.”
Lyles pitched one inning before leaving with the injury as he gave up two hits and struck out two.
The Sonoraville offense in Game 2 was led Folds who had two hits, including a double, to go with two RBIs and a run scored. Jason Pate also had a multi-hit day with a run scored and a stolen base, Holsomback had a solo homer, two walks and two runs scored, and Cole Godfrey also had a hit to add to Lockerby’s RBI-double and the hit and RBI for Gross.
“We hit the ball well all day,” said Walraven. “In both games, I feel like our bats did the job. Even our outs were loud. We got some timely hits there in the fifth inning to take the lead, and that’s what it takes to win games like this against a good team.”
White County’s offense in Game 2 was paced by J. Ben Haynes, who finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Rylee Higgins added two hits with a double and a run scored, Evan Chambers contributed two hits and an RBI and Nate Bray also had two hits. Kyler Mayo doubled as well, and Dylan Sargent drove in two runs both on groundouts.
Jake Johnson took the loss on the mound in Game 2 for the Warriors as he went six innings and allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out one and walking two. Mark Daniels pitched one inning of relief and gave up one run on one hit while striking out one and walking three.
In Game 1, White County got a run in the top of the first to take a quick lead, but Sonoraville responded quickly with a four-run bottom half of the frame that included RBI-doubles by Godfrey and Lyles, an RBI-groundout from Gross and an RBI-single from Matthew Parrott.
The Phoenix kept the momentum rolling and added to their lead in the second when Godfrey connected for a two-run homer to make it 6-1, and Parrott pushed the lead to six with a solo homer in the fourth. Pate finished with two hits, including a double, two runs scored, a stolen base and a walk in Game 2.
White County started their comeback in the fourth with a three-run frame that was highlighted by a Kyler Mayo RBI-single as well as a sac fly by Daniels.
An RBI-single by Higgins in the sixth cut Sonoraville’s lead to 7-5 to set up the seventh-inning comeback that featured a two-run double by Sargent, a run coming home on an error and another sac fly by Daniels to bring the Warriors’ run total to nine.
Haynes, Bray, Higgins, Mayo and Bailee Patterson all had two hits in the Game 1 win for White County with Mayo driving in two and Patterson and Higgins driving in one.
Caleb Reddy got the win for White County as he battled through a tough start to the game before finally settling down and going six innings while allowing seven runs on eight hits. Sargent came on in the seventh to earn the save with a scoreless inning of relief.
Walraven said he was looking forward to playing in a winner-take-all Game 3 on Friday as the Phoenix look to conclude their first-ever home playoff series with a clutch win to advance to Round 2 for the first time in program history.
“Playing at home is special…this is the first time we’ve ever been on our home field in the playoffs,” said Walraven. “To get to come back out tomorrow and play with our season on the line, other than sweeping today, is what you want. We need to come out and swing the bats well again, and I feel good with another senior on the mound for us with Devin (Hackney) making the start. It’s all hands on deck tomorrow. Everyone has to be ready to whatever needed to get the win and live to play another day.”