HIXSON — Polk County starting pitcher Hunter Carter threw well enough and the Wildcats did enough offensively to defeat the Class AAA Clarksville Wildcats Thursday in the Pounder Invitational. But errors in the field, both physical and mental, sent Polk to a 10-8 loss.
Hunter Carter took the loss for Polk in a game head coach Michael Carter felt the senior could have won with better support behind him.
"He pitched great. He gave up four earned runs and two of those came on a deep fly. They've got some good hitters and he did a good job of pitching around them and pitching around our errors," Carter said of the workman righty.
"We've got weak links in the chain and you can't win like that. Our guys have to show up to play every day. They can't have mental lapses. If you play bad in the first you are going to have a chance to make it up later in the game, but you just can't mail in the whole day. That is kind a microcosm of what it was tonight."
Polk County will return to Hixson for a pair of games this afternoon, facing Andalusia, Ala., at 1:15 and Cleveland High at 3:30. The Blue Raiders will face Clarksville at 5:45. The Boys from Benton will also take on co-host Hixson Saturday afternoon a 4:45.
Playing at the home of the Hixson Wildcats on opening night of the tournament, Polk put itself in a first-inning hole with back-to-back fielding errors followed by four consecutive singles that led to a quick 4-0 Clarksville lead.
It took another inning for the Polk Wildcats to get on the board, and they did it in a big way.
With two out in the top of the third, Justin Brown — who later saved a Clarksville run from scoring with a dazzling throw to the plate from right field — singled. Brown was leading off first base when Duncan Coffey blasted a homer that easily left the confines of John Plumlee Stadium to cut the Clarksville lead to 4-2.
After a scoreless fourth, Chris Wimberley reached on a Clarksville error, Brown singled and Coffey scored Wimberly with another single. Brown raced home on a wild pitch and Coffey made it a 5-4 game after scoring on another Clarksville miscue.
The Polk lead lasted all of two batters when in the bottom half of the inning, Clarksville retook the lead on a single and a Bradley Hill homer.
The battle continued in the sixth when Brown picked up his third hit of the game and Coffey trotted to first with a walk. Matt Hammons scored Brown with a single and Andrew Aldridge loaded the bases after getting hit by a pitch. A Carter Flowers sacrifice fly scored Coffey and Aldridge gave Polk County an 8-7 lead on a Carter single.
Three consecutive singles, a triple and what looked to be an obvious missed call by the field umpire did the Polk Wildcats in in the bottom of the inning.
Brown's perfect throw from right field to get the first out at home preserved the Polk lead momentarily. Wildcat catcher Hammons came up after the tag with a strike to second that appeared to catch the Clarksville runner well off the bag. Unfortunately for Polk, the field judge took a misstep and landed in a heap between the pitcher's mound and second base, calling the runner safe from a less than ideal vantage point. A conversation with Carter and the home plate umpire yielded no change of the call leading to a tie game.
"If we make the plays early in the game we don't have to worry about it," said a philosophical Carter.
"We got down, battled back and made good adjustments at the plate. The bottom of the order turned it over to the top and we scored runs. But, we aren't good enough to have lapses. We're good enough if we play solid baseball to win a lot of our games, not all of them but we can win a lot if we don't have mental lapses. Our pitching is going to be good enough."
The subsequent Clarksville triple put the Polk Wildcats behind 10-8 where they remained until the two-hour time limit was called after six inning of play.
"We've got a lot of weekend left. We definitely showed some fight. I like the fight, if we just got to show up and play good, fundamental baseball then we win," said the Polk coach. "We need to take more than we give. We gave a lot away today and it was still close in spite of all we gave. But, we're not playing for close we're playing for wins."
Polk County 002 033 — 8 9 4
Clarksville 400 033 — 10 12 3
WP: Brady Clark. LP: Hunter Carter. HR: Duncan Coffey (PC), Brady Hill (C). 3B: Donnie Everett (C). Other highlights: Justin Brown 3-4, Coffey 2-3, Carter 2-3 (PC); Gabe Bowling 2-3, Everett 2-3, Hill 2-3 (C). Records: Polk County 6-6; Clarksville 7-4.