PENSACOLA, Fla. — Why leave the state to play high school baseball games? Probably to win the kind of game Norman North won Monday night.
Via a Herculean effort from their bullpen, North first stabilized the game, the tied it up, then claimed a 5-4 victory with a single run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Even better, they did it on the campus of West Florida High School, their pool-play opening opponent at the 22-team Aggie Classic, in front of a solid crowd rooting for the other side.
“You really had to be here,” North coach Brian Aylor said. “This was one of the most hostile atmosphere’s we’ve ever been a part of, playing on West Florida’s home field in the 7 p.m. game.”
It has the T-Wolves 6-2 on the season, and just maybe it will act as proof going forward they need not ever be out of the game.
Ryan McDaniel opened North’s half of the seventh inning by drawing a walk and was lifted for pinch runner Dylan Sterling. Next up, a single from Luke Jones through the hole vacated by the shortstop when Aylor called for a hit and run but runners at first and second with nobody out.
Daniel Herrin laid down a bunt and West Florida went for the lead runner at third base. The throw was wild, Sterling was sent home, West Florida’s left fielder picked up the ball and gunned it home, but Sterling slid under the tag.
That ended it.
Still, the MVPs came out of North’s bullpen: Nick Warren, Brandon Johnson and Austin Cranford.
After the Jaguars got to North starter Brad Kinsey for four hits and four runs in the top of the first, Warren entered, got the last out of the inning and nine more before yielding to Johnson in the fifth, who tossed two more innings of shutout relief, before yeilding to Cranford, who retired West Florida in the seventh.
After that, after tying the game with a run in both the second and third innings, and two more in the fifth, the T-Wolves pushed one more across on a single, a hit and run, a sacrifice and a wild throw.
“In all my years at Norman North, this is one of the most impressive wins we’ve ever had,” Aylor said.
The T-Wolves will try making it two straight in tourney play when they meet Greenwood, Ark., at 7 p.m. today at Woodham High School, also in Pensacola.