Natchez overcomes eight-run deficit in victory

Published 3:39 am Saturday, April 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — Friday’s game against Jim Hill couldn’t have started off any worse for the Natchez High Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs committed five errors in the first three innings and saw the Tigers jump out to an 8-0 lead.

But with a playoff spot on the line, Natchez kept its composure and gradually chipped away at the lead before scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim a 9-8 victory.

“This is the way we should have been playing all year, not giving up just because we get down early,” Natchez High coach Charlie Williams said. “It’s a testament to these boys.”

With the victory, Natchez (8-7, 4-2) clinched a playoff spot as the second place team in the district.

The Bulldogs didn’t make things easy for themselves either, as they stranded 15 runners on base, including many in scoring position.

“It was very difficult,” Williams said. “But I kept the faith in the boys. I knew they could pull it off.”

And one of the keys to the victory was the relief pitching of Javon Washington.

The Bulldog junior took the mound in the top of the fourth inning with Natchez trailing 8-3 and pitched four shutout innings without allowing a hit.

“When we put Javon in the game, we knew he would hold them,” Williams said. “It was just a matter of whether we could score enough runs to come back.”

Jim Hill had just three hits in the game, but took advantage of three Natchez errors in the top of the first inning to build a 5-0 lead.

The Tigers expanded the lead in the second when Colby Michael stole third and scored on a throwing error by the catcher.

Jim Hill increased its lead even further in the third inning thanks to Dominick Fears.

Fears hit an RBI triple and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Tigers an 8-0 lead.

At that point, things looked pretty bleak for the Bulldogs.

But the first glimmer of hope came in the bottom of the third when Natchez plated three runs.

Davion Ward drove in the first run with a triple and then scored on a single by Derrian Johnson.

Johnson then scored on an error after stealing third base.

Natchez added one run in the fourth on a Washington double and added another in the fifth on a single by Trevon Chatman.

However, a controversial call prevented the Bulldogs from drawing even closer.

With two outs and runners on second and third, Alfred Banks lifted a fly ball down the right field line.

The Jim Hill right fielder got a glove on the ball, but couldn’t haul it in, and two runs scored.

However, the umpire ruled that the right fielder was in foul territory when he touched the ball, and therefore the ball was foul.

Williams argued the call for several minutes but to no avail.

Banks struck out two pitches later.

Natchez drew closer in the sixth inning when Johnson scored on an error to make the score 8-6.

But the major damage would be done in the bottom of the seventh.

Chatman led off the inning with an infield single and Brian Isaac was hit by a pitch to put two runners on.

Washington then belted a triple to left field that tied the game and put the winning run on third with nobody out.

After two consecutive intentional walks to load the bases and set up a force at any base, Johnson drew a four-pitch walk that forced in the winning run and put the Bulldogs in the playoffs.

“(The players) knew the ramifications of this game,” Williams said. “They knew how important it was. And they stepped up to the challenge.”