Pitching holds up in end

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

as Walker solid for six-plus



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PONTOTOC &045; Sometimes, perhaps particularly in high school baseball, there’s no greater substitute than lethal pitching.

Those who understood this year’s MHSAA Class 1A race looked at the staff Cathedral had and swallowed hard.

When your bell cow is a senior like Te Riley, who not only throws hard but comes back with an ill deuce, your No. 2 is an equally untouchable sophomore in Corey Walker and the rest of your staff could be other teams’ aces, baseball’s gods obviously have it in for you.

It was the driving force in the best-of-three championship series against Houlka, as the usually potent Green Wave bats managed just eight hits in two games.

&uot;They knew what was going on,&uot; Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said of his staff. &uot;I was hoping they were focused enough not to overplay. It’s hard for me to believe we could win on a passed ball, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.&uot;

The circus ending did nothing to damper a lively celebration, which raged on at Pontotoc City Park for more than 30 minutes.

Walker was masterful in 6 1/3 innings of work, throwing 96 pitches before Beesley came and got him in favor of Garrett Jones in the seventh.

Walker had three innings where he sent the Wildcats down in order, striking out four and inducing two double plays.

&uot;Te was pumping me up,&uot; said Walker, who added he received words of encouragement from Riley’s father as well. &uot;I felt good because they were backing me up. That (confidence) helped me out a lot.&uot;

His biggest statement came in the fifth. Houlka had just pelted Walker for two runs on two hits the inning prior, making it a 5-2 contest, and then Mark Stevens, the Wildcat starter, retired Cathedral up and down.

Momentum billowing, Houlka came up to bat in the fifth, hoping to cut into the margin further, if not take its first lead of the championship series.

However, Walker had other ideas, sandwiching a pair of fly outs around a strikeout on just 13 pitches.

&uot;(Walker) caught his second wind that inning. I would’ve liked to see him finish the game off, but it got tight&uot; in the seventh, Beesley said. &uot;They had their No. 1 hitter (Huggins) up there as the winning run. It’s a small park, and I thought he may have been able to hit it out.&uot;

Jones entered with &uot;tons of adrenaline&uot; flowing through his system and men at first and second with one out.

&uot;(Walker) did a good job the whole game,&uot; Jones said. &uot;He had a little bit of trouble at the end, but that happens to everybody.&uot;

The senior reliever, whose day-to-day position is shortstop, was able to harness that energy and strikeout Brett Hood. He lost James Park on a full count and the bases were chocked full of Wildcats.

Beesley made his second trip to the mound in the inning, motioned to Riley, who was playing first, and the veteran calmly strolled to the Cathedral dugout to fetch his pitching glove.

&uot;That’s right where I wanted to be,&uot; Riley said. &uot;He (Beesley) gave me the ball. I was so nervous and excited.&uot;

Riley’s only offering wasn’t a thing of beauty, but his head was in the game enough to race toward home plate to be there when catcher Drew Burns flipped it to Riley so he could put the tag on Houlka’s Greg Naugle, who was trying to score.