The playoff journey for the Paris varsity baseball team in Darren Beaver's first year at the Helm didn't start off with a bang or a whimper but rather a sign of good luck because the program was fortunate enough to draw a bye for the initial round of Class 2, District 13.
When the Coyotes then came out guns-a-blazing on Monday against Clopton, 6-7 overall, in round two, that may come across as wreckless to some, but when the smoke cleared and it was the good guys that staggered away with the hard-fought yet somewhat hectic 12-11 victory, everyone was happy. It wasn't win, but it was a whole lot of fun and very few people, if any, will ever turn down a truly-earned victory, so they took it, not knowing what lied just over the horizon.
Not that Paris, 7-6 overall, ever could know what was waiting for them. Title games are like that. Two teams enter and the better one emerges a champion while the other has the entire offseason to cure whatever might be ailing it. Silex, 10-4 overall, was fresh off of a 12-0 shellacking of Louisiana, 5-12 overall, and was just getting started, but the Coyotes didn't know that until it was too late. More to the point, until they'd been mercied because the Owls scored early and they scored often.
Then they just kept scoring until they couldn't score any more and had taken this game and eliminated Paris 11-1.
On Monday it was nothing like that at all for the Coyotes. Instead, they took performances like Timmy Johnston going 2-for-3 with two runs, one steal and a walk against the Hawks and parlayed it into leads of 1-0 in the first inning and 4-0 in the second. Adam Forrest couldn't help making his presence felt, either, by charting three hits, including a double, one steal, a run and a walk in four at-bats, all of which contributed to his team taking control 12-4 in the fifth.
If there are two sides to every story, the Hawks began just after that with four runs in the top of the sixth. Once they blanked Paris in the bottom of the stanza, there was nothing but space between these two teams and one just kept inching closer to the other until there was almost no space left. Fortunately, Clopton was only able to get so close and fell just short, needing four runs for the tie and only scoring three to end up losing by a run 12-11.
"At the plate we were disciplined and hit the ball hard. We still looked at a few called third strikes that we need to fix, but as long as we stay aggressively disciplined, our at-bats should keep us moving," said coach Darren Beaver. "We put up runs in bunches with timely hitting and hard contact. Our approach at the plate has gotten better each game; that has to continue. Forrest, Keaton (Threlkeld), Brock (Miller) and Chris (Ebbesmeyer) all had clutch hits with two out to drive in runs."
Another saving grace for the Coyotes was Ethan Redington and the pitching performance he gave. This included allowing seven runs on eight hits and four walks and one hit batsman with two strikeouts, which was just enough to get this team from where it was at to where it wanted to be. Beaver also made note of the quality defense being orchestrated by Johnston, Miller and Ebbesmeyer.
"The first three innings Redington was throwing strikes and had solid defense behind him. Ethan struggled throwing strikes and there were some along with some good hits by Clopton in the sixth that got them back in the game," Beaver said. "Forrest came in and struck out the side to finish the sixth. Clopton was able to push more runs across in the seventh with a few swinging bunts and two flare hits that just fell out of reach. But, we made plays when we had to and closed them out."
While it was Forrest that was credited with the save in that game for Paris, it will be Silex that advances to Class 2 sectionals Monday to host Northeast (Cairo), 15-4 overall, at 6:00 p.m. The winner of that match-up will then face either Scotland County, 14-5 overall, or Bishop Leonard, 7-12 overall, in the quarterfinals, on Wednesday.