While Shields’ swing put the Wolverines (10-4, 1-2 Region 5AAAAAA) on top, it was solid pitching, good defense and a little luck that kept them there.
Woodstock pitcher A.J. Hayes lasted 5 2/3 innings before getting caught in a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth. He gave up four hits and walked one.
Even as Woodstock coach Todd Miller went to the mound to pull Hayes, the pitcher didn’t want to leave the game.
“He was still wanting to compete as I was talking him out of the game,” Miller said. “He still wanted the baseball, and that is all that I ask our kids to do — to want it.”
Austin Parker finished the game for Woodstock, giving up just one hit, but he still faced a jam of his own in the bottom of the seventh.
After Etowah’s Cole Gandolfo was hit by a pitch with one out, Nick Rosemond hit a sharp single to short and both runners were safe on the play. H.D. Dillard hit a grounder to second that retired Rosemond, but it put runners on the corners with two outs. Jake Swan worked a deep count before Parker was able to induce a groundout to end the game.
Aside from the solo shot by Shields, Woodstock had just three hits. Jack Brannon went 2-for-3, including a double in the first inning. Sammy Mang had the team’s other hit in the fourth inning, but the play ended badly as Brannon, who singled to lead off the inning, was tagged out at home trying to score from second on the hit to right field.
Miller said Shields has been connecting with the ball well all season, often making out long fly outs. The coach figured, if Shields hit one at Etowah, it would be enough to carry out.
“The way he swings, he has more RBIs on our team than anyone,” Miller said. “When the situation is tough, or like it was (Friday) night, he just has a way of connecting on it.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Etowah (10-3, 1-2) nearly tied the game.
After a one-out single by Swan and a wild pitch allowed him to advance to second, Will Campbell was intentionally walked to keep the force on. After a fly out, the bases were loaded when Hayes hit J.T. Thomas with a pitch. That’s when Parker entered the game and forced Robbie Knox to fly out to end the inning.
Miller said mental toughness is what allowed his team to get out of the two tough spots, although he admitted that he was pretty nervous in the bottom of the sixth.
“We have tried to build our team on being mentally tough and, in those situations, not being the team that is the first to blink,” Miller said. “We try to have our kids feed off of those situations, so that, when we are put in them, we are able to feed off of them.
“In the sixth, I felt like they really had something going and we needed to work out of that and give them either one or nothing. I felt like, if we could do that, we were going to have a shot to win the game. I thought, once we got by that hurdle, we would do what we had to do in the seventh to win the game.”
Campbell went 2-for-2 with a walk for Etowah. Rosemund was 1-for-1.
Taylor Lobus took the loss for Etowah, lasting just three innings. He gave up one run on two hits, while striking out two.
Brent Jones finished the game, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out three.