Locke Mills’ Hunter Day is frozen in his tracks as he realizes Post 153’s Austin Brown is waiting to easily tag him out after Day tried stretching a single into a double.
AUBURN — Nick Hathaway can count the number of times he’s pitched this season on one hand. But the fact that it’s a steady hand is the reason he got called into a crucial spot late in Tuesday night’s Zone 2 playoff quarterfinal.
Hathaway snuffed out an eighth-inning Locke Mills rally, and Jarod Norcross Plourde had the key hit as Rogers Post 153 held off its pesky opponent, 8-5, at Austin Field.
No. 4 Rogers (13-6) advances to face top-seeded Bessey Motors in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. No. 5 Locke Mills finishes its season at 9-10.
With Rogers holding a tenuous 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth, Hathaway entered the game in relief of starter Tyler Libby with runners on first and third and two out. Locke Mills had already scored two in the inning.
Hathaway, making just his third appearance for Rogers, got pinch hitter Zack Hill to fly out to center to end the threat. Then, after his teammates made it a three-run cushion in the bottom of the frame, worked around a one-out single to close it out.
“The coaches do a great job of calling the shots for us, so I just try to hit my spots because I know that I can trust them,” Hathaway said. “I wouldn’t say I was coming into the season as a pitcher. I was more of a second baseman or outfielder. But Coach kind of tossed me in one game and I just went with it.”
“Nick has been very effective for us when he’s come in, hitting his spots and commanding all of his pitches,” Rogers coach Dave Jordan said. “The guy’s a competitor. He’s a very good soccer player and he’s been in some big spots there. He just has a great mindset.”
Rogers plated a pair off Locke Mills starter Tanner Wheeler on Austin Cox’s RBI single and a bases-loaded walk to Norcross Plourde (1-for-2, two walks, sacrifice fly).
Norcross Plourde drew another free pass with two out in the fifth, which Grant Hartley immediately followed with a two-run homer to right.
Hartley’s bat flip and verbal celebration after the blast seemed to fire up Locke Mills, who answered with four runs off Libby to tie it in the sixth. RBI singles by Wheeler and Blake Letourneau, an RBI groundout by Josh Eliot and two Rogers errors made it a new game.
“It gave us an itch. The bats finally started finding some holes and everyone came alive,” Locke Mills coach Skip Bennett said. “If we could have kept that momentum going, it would have been a different game.”
Libby bounced back with his lone 1-2-3 inning in the seventh.
“He was very gutty,” Jordan said. “At times, when he didn’t have his best stuff, he made his pitches when he had to, and then we made some nice plays behind him, too.
“He did a nice job of giving us a nice long outing,” Jordan added. “We need that in the playoffs.”
Norcross Plourde broke the tie in the seventh with a one-out double to center field to score Austin Brown. Grant Hartley followed with a single through a drawn-in infield to make it 6-4.
Locke Mills cut that deficit in half on Eliot’s one-out double. Letourneau’s infield hit moved him to third and chased Libby.
Cox, Brown, Hartley and Tyler Blanchard had two hits apiece for Rogers. Wheeler, Letoruneau, Hunter Day and Caleb Clarke had two each for Locke Mills.
Post 153 shortstop Austin Cox gobbles up a ground ball before throwing out a Locke Mills batter at first during Tuesday night’s game in Auburn.Rogers Post 153 pitcher Tyler Libby delivers a pitch during Tuesday night’s legion playoff game against Locke Mills .