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Much the way they attacked the Pinewood Christian infield early in the game, John Milledge Academy’s Trojans broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2022 GISA AAA championship series on a simple grounder to the shortstop.
The Patriots, even with that infield drawn in as two Trojans stood in scoring position, couldn’t handle what Keaton Prior gave them and made things worse with a bad throw that got past home plate to the backstop.
Both Jackson Thomas and Banks Eady scored, Eady’s run being the most important as Pinewood countered with one run in the bottom of the eighth on two solid base hits. Briggs Eady threw that second Patriot hitter out at second base, and Prior, pitching all eight innings, ended the game on a strikeout, 4-3 the final score and 1-0 in the series lead for John Milledge.
The contest was classic in several ways with momentum shifts that had one side in hysterics, though the good feelings would not last for long. At Historic Grayson Stadium, the deep professional outfield came into play a few times, and fans saw right fielders make put-out attempts at first base more often than expected. And that wasn’t due to crazy shifts or
Calls were overturned, all-out effort to run down a baseball paid off, and not all decisions on the field were the right ones. Even Thomas, JMA’s first baseman, held the baseball a little longer than normal to shake off the frustration of not getting an out call on a pick-off attempt in the first inning.
But Thomas’ single led off the top of the eighth, and with one out Banks Eady doubled to deep right. Thomas didn’t make it home making sure his teammate’s drive would drop fair, but Prior was more than capable of seeing both touched the plate.
John Milledge started the game attacking the baseball on the ground, and Pinewood Christian could best be described as shaky in doing its part defensively. Bud Veal led off the top of the first inning with a single. Briggs Eady also singled, and one more from Thomas put JMA up 1-0 with one out.
Blake Bellflower hit a grounder the Patriots couldn’t field cleanly, thus there was no play to make. The bases were loaded for Banks Eady, and he beat out Pinewood Christian’s attempt at a double play. That put the Trojans up 2-0 before Prior could throw his first pitch.
And in that first inning of work, Prior’s catcher Brady Rollins threw out the only Patriot to reach base trying to steal second.
For the rest of the regulation innings, Pinewood Christian squashed numerous efforts by John Milledge to add to that lead. Rollins reached in the second inning with another grounder that ‘ate up’ the Patriot infield, and though Veal also singled he would be called out for obstruction going into second base. That, only, was after an appeal from the Patriots, a full umpires’ discussion, and it took a run off the board.
Pinewood Christian took a different offensive approach to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Starting with a first-pitch single, the Pats hit two deep one-out doubles, one to the far right corner and another to the 400-foot sign in centerfield. Though two would score, two others were left on base.
The Trojans wasted a deep double from Banks Eady in the top of the fourth plus Cooper Wilburn’s hustle to beat out an infield single when Pinewood Christian finally showed some defensive execution on a double play.
John Milledge also threatened in the sixth when Bellflower beat out an infield hit (that old double clutch) and Banks Eady executed his sacrifice bunt. Prior, however, would be robbed by a remarkable running catch by the second baseman going to shallow right near the foul line. And that turned into another double play at third base.
JMA’s seventh also featured a single from Rollins and Veal’s bunt that would not roll foul all the way to third base. But two strikeouts kept both of them stranded.
Prior gave up eight hits, struck out five and walked two, and his defense was much more reliable with three assists at third base from Wilburn, a string of four catches in a row by Caleb Haines at shortstop and a diving catch and roll from Banks Eady in left field (though it followed what Pinewood Christian’s infielder pulled off, but every bit as spectacular).

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