Armorel scored on two passed balls late in the game to keep its season alive.
Dallas Nicholson followed up a one-run triple with the tying score in the seventh, and Jonathan Porter sprinted home in the ninth with one out to give the Region 2 champion Tigers a 4-3 victory over Kirby on Thursday in the first round of the 1A state baseball playoffs at Taylor Field.
Armorel (23-7), the 2011 state champion and 2012 runner-up, trailed 2-0 after Kirby’s Lance Golden smashed a two-run shot in the fourth inning. But the Tigers got strong pitching from Ty Waggoner, who struck out six and gave up three hits in the final four innings for the win.
“I had a lot of momentum,” Waggoner said. “Teammates kept me up the whole game, so I think that had a lot to do with it. I was feeling good today, though.”
Taylor Hopper struck out eight and held the Trojans to two hits in the first five innings.
Golden was the Trojans’ starter, and the lefty struck out eight and allowed three runs on five hits before reaching his eight-inning limit. Trevor Edwards suffered the loss after giving up the unearned run on one hit in the ninth.
“That left-hander out there is one of the best left-handers we’ve faced,” Armorel coach Charlie Brown said. “We knew he was good coming in and he did a heck of a job. A lot of credit goes to that Kirby bunch and coach (Marty) Smith.”
Kirby (10-10) almost kept alive a season that almost didn’t get to begin. Smith said he had to pull some of his 10 players from study hall to have enough for a baseball team. Two of them had not played baseball before, he said.
“I’m so proud of them,” Smith said. “From where we started to where we end, coming in as a fourth seed (from Region 4) and going toe-to-toe with a great team like Armorel, I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Hopper didn’t give up a hit until Edwards singled in the fourth. That was followed by Golden’s shot to right.
Three of Armorel’s baserunners were caught in rundowns from first base. Two were left in scoring position before the Tigers scored their first run on a sacrifice fly by Waggoner in the sixth.
Kirby’s Cody Grinnis slapped an RBI double in the top of the seventh to make it a 3-1 lead.
Hopper, who went 3 for 4, singled to lead off the Armorel half of the inning, and Nicholson followed with his triple. Golden retired the next two batters, but his 0-1 pitch to Peyton Brown bounced off the plate and passed the catcher to allow Nicholson to score.
The Trojans had a hit each in the eighth and ninth innings, but could not capitalize. In the bottom of the ninth, with one out and a 2-0 count for Peyton Lannon at the plate, Porter — who was hit by a pitch to reach base — scored when the ball passed the plate again to end the game.
“We found some key hits — just enough — and we live to fight again,” Brown said.
Grinnis went 2 for 4 to lead the Trojans. But their bottom five batters in the order struggled against Hopper and Waggoner, striking out in 13 of 18 at-bats.
Armorel will play either County Line or Nemo Vista at 2:30 p.m. today at White Hall High School.