North Hopkins leading but can't finish Game 1 - literally

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 16, 2007 - GILMER - The North Hopkins Panthers took what Maud gave them on Tuesday and made the most of it.

North Hopkins plated five runs off three Maud errors and took a 7-3 lead into the top of the sixth inning before lightning and steady rain postponed the completion of the Class A, Region III quarterfinal contest.

The game, which is the first of a best-of-three series, is scheduled to be completed at 6 p.m. Thursday in Gilmer. It was originally rescheduled for today, but the field is still too wet to play after a downpour last night.

Game 2 is scheduled for noon Saturday at Paris Junior College with Game 3 to follow if necessary.

The series opener will be restarted where it was interrupted - Maud had a runner on first with no outs and the No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters coming to the plate in the sixth.

"We just need to get those six outs tomorrow," said NH head coach Brian Bymaster. "We're in the driver's seat if we can close that one out."

Bymaster will have to go with a pitcher other than ace Bradley Ball, who threw 97 pitches on Tuesday in the five-plus innings. He gave up one earned run on five hits and three walks while striking out six.

"I'm not sure who will pitch tomorrow," he said. "I've got an idea, but I'm going to see how practice goes today."

Ball was able to work out of trouble in most innings, something that Maud pitchers Jordan Wright and Bradley McClain had trouble doing, mostly because of some untimely errors.

North Hopkins (17-11) took a 3-0 lead in the first inning after Jeremy Dixon walked with one out, stole second and scored on Ball's single to right center.

After Rickey Willis and Joe Smiddy each singled to left to load the bases, A.D. Ramirez - who was involved in several game-changing plays - came to the plate. Ramirez hit a comebacker to the mound and Wright threw home for the force out, but the catcher's throw to first on the attempted double play went into right field, allowing Willis and Smiddy to both score.

In the second and third innings, NH made some nice defensive plays to hold down Maud rallies. In the second, NH shortstop Dustin Clements made a nice running catch of a pop to shallow left with two runners on, and in the third he initiated a double play with the catch of a line drive.

The Panthers were ahead 3-1 going into the bottom of the third when they added another unearned run. This came as Ramirez walked and scored when Lorenzo Rivera hit a slow single down the third-base line that the Maud third baseman threw away down the first base line.

Maud cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fourth with a pair of unearned runs driven in by Codey Ott and McClain.

But, the Panthers came back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth. Smiddy was hit by a pitch and Rivera singled. Then, with two outs, Dillon Mitchell - who had a pair of hits and a sacrifice bunt - singled to left, scoring Smiddy from second. When Mitchell went to second on the throw home, the catcher tried to gun him down but the ball sailed into the outfield, allowing Rivera and Mitchell to both score.

Ramirez put an exclamation point on his evening when he made a diving catch of a pop fly in right field in the top of the fifth.

Notes: The game must be completed by Thursday or, according to UIL rules, the series would revert to a one-game scenario.

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