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Neely’s hit propels Vidalia past Buckeye

VIDALIA — A week after an impressive come-from-behind walk-off win against Bunkie, Vidalia once again channeled its Saturday afternoon magic.

Down 11-10 against Buckeye in the bottom of the seventh, Vidalia faced a bases-loaded situation with B.J. Neely up to bat. And despite being in a bit of a slump, Neely was able to connect on a single past first base that scored Seth Barlow and Seth Thompson, giving the Vikings a 12-11 win.

“Today I went 0-4 with a strikeout (before that at-bat), and they just put me in a situation with the bases loaded,” Neely said. “I told everyone I was due, that I would get a hit this game. It just happened to be the game-winner.”

Barlow began the inning with a single, and Thompson hit a double, putting runners on second and third. John Brixey was next in line for Vidalia, but Buckeye chose to intentionally walk him with first base open.

“I was on-deck, and I felt like I wasn’t going to get a chance to hit, because Brixey’s so good in pressure situations,” Neely said. “When I saw him get walked, I said to myself, ‘I’ll end this game right here.’”

Vidalia coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said he was very comfortable with Neely in that situation, despite not having a hit prior to his walk-off one.

“B.J. is our second-leading hitter,” Hoffpauir said. “He finds a way to get the job done. He’s a good contract hitter, and I felt good when he came up with the bases loaded.”

As for winning another game on a walk-off hit, Hoffpauir said he hasn’t been immune to the nervousness that comes with those kinds of wins.

“I have a box of Maalox at home, and that’s what gets me through it,” Hoffpauir said. “I don’t know how long we can do this, but I give all the credit to the kids. I always harp to them that we’ll play hard, and it’s paid off so far.”

Vidalia actually led 10-7 going into the top of the seventh inning, but Thompson, who relieved Trey Lillie in the sixth inning, was unable to close the door. Buckeye’s Jacob Carter hit a two-run home run, and several batters later, Michael Wilson singled in Blake Butler and Dennis Clay.

Buckeye started the game with three runs in the first inning, but Vidalia tied it up in the bottom half of the frame. Brixey knocked in two runs on an RBI single, and Matt Sonderes scored Neely on a single.

The Panthers scored two more runs in the second inning off starter Jamal Davis, prompting Hoffpauir to bring Lillie in relief. Lillie proceeded to keep the Panthers scoreless until the top of the sixth inning.

Vidalia, meanwhile, scored one run in the bottom of the second, two in the third and three in the fourth, giving it a 9-5 lead going into the sixth.

Lillie ran into trouble when he let in two runs in the sixth, one on an error by Brixey at first base, and another on a double by Michael Wilson. With runners on second and third, Hoffpauir brought Thompson to the mound. Thompson got the next three batters out, preserving a 9-7 lead.

Hoffpauir had good things to say about Lillie and Thompson after the win.

“Trey won’t beat himself,” Hoffpauir said. “He throws strikes and makes you put the ball in play. He’ll give you two to three good innings, which is what he did today. Thompson came in and struck out the next two batters, and got the third one to ground out. That was huge.”

Vidalia added another run in the bottom of the sixth on a pinch-hit double by Devon Barnes that scored Sonderes.

The win for Vidalia (13-6, 6-1) was the program’s 475th win. The Vikings will travel to Avoyelles Thursday.

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