Priest’s grand slam helps Simpson down AC in Game 1

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

MENDENHALL &045; Talk about slow going.

Adams Christian hadn’t started this slow all season. Take away two hits that scored a run in the second and the Rebels might as well have not even gone up to bat the whole game.

Fortunately for Adams Christian, Simpson had little better luck at the plate through that stretch. With two of the best pitchers in the MPSA going in ACCS’s Timmy Foster and Simpson’s Cullan Kight, offense was scarce in the opening game of the MPSA Class AA State Championship Series Tuesday.

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Scarce, that is, until the fifth inning. Simpson got things going then, loading the bases for Justin Priest, who smacked a ball to left-center for a grand slam to put his team up 5-1 and ultimately secure a win for the Cougars by that same score.

&uot;They walked our No. 3 hitter (Kight) in front of me, and I knew I couldn’t leave runners on base,&uot; Priest said. &uot;I just went up looking for a base hit, but I hit that home run. It wasn’t what I was going for, but I’ll take it.&uot;

With the win, Simpson (28-5) takes a 1-0 lead over Adams Christian (22-5) in the best-of-three series. Game 2 will be at 6 tonight at Adams Christian.

Simpson’s fifth-inning outburst determined the outcome of the game and was the only aberration in what was otherwise a top-notch pitchers’ duel.

In the fifth, Matthew Windham got things started with a single and went to third on a Shannon Steed’s double to left. The Rebels intentionally walked Kight to reach Priest, who hit his grand slam.

&uot;We made the decision to walk Kight because the guy behind him has hit a lot of ground balls up the middle, based on the charts we got from three or four teams,&uot; Adams Christian head coach Gill Morris said. &uot;Timmy’s curve just stayed up a little, and he did a good job keeping his hands back and driving it.&uot;

Morris said he didn’t have any reservations about the decision to walk Kight.

&uot;When you have a guy that’s an Ole Miss signee, that’s as good as him Š he’s without a doubt their best hitter,&uot; Morris said. &uot;We made the decisions based on the probabilities, on what their cleanup guy had done.&uot;

The only other offense in the game came in the first two innings, when each team scored one run.

Simpson’s Steed slapped a leadoff home run to left field, giving his team an early 1-0 lead.

Led by the play of Foster, the Rebels came back in the second. Foster crushed a ball off the center field wall for a double. Courtesy runner Luke Brumfield scored when Trisler doubled down the third-base line.

The fifth was Foster’s only real trouble in the game. Take away a couple pitches that weren’t located perfectly, and Foster might have thrown a shutout, Morris said.

&uot;If you’re only going to score one run, you better throw a shutout and play great defense behind your pitcher,&uot; Morris said. &uot;Timmy threw well, but that’s a lot to ask of anyone. I told Timmy he pitched fine. He threw the ball harder than I’ve seen him throw when he’s been at AC.&uot;

Simpson head coach Neill Bartling said he thought the game featured two of the best pitchers he’s seen all year.

&uot;Kight’s lost two games in three years here for us,&uot; Bartling said. &uot;Foster’s obviously a great pitcher for Adams. I knew that coming in.&uot;

Kight had a great game, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out three. The disappointing thing for Morris was his team’s offense, which had perhaps its worst performance of the season.

&uot;We made Kight work in the first two or three innings, but then he didn’t throw more than 12 pitches in any after that,&uot; Morris said. &uot;Our philosophy is if the pitch is there, take your cut. But there’s a difference between taking a quality cut and just taking a cut off your back foot or whatever. We got a little impatient. The kids have butterflies. They want to make something happen. But you have to do the basic things, and usually that’s enough.&uot;

The good news for the Rebels is that they will be at home tonight, where ACCS hasn’t lost a game in more than a year.

&uot;Coach told us to keep our heads up,&uot; Foster said. &uot;We have to win tomorrow, but we feel confident at home.&uot;

Said Morris: &uot;We’re going for No. 20 in a row going all the way back to last year. We have to win at home. It’s that simple.&uot;