TURNER — Leavitt starting pitcher Matt Wallingford was pulled from the mound after reaching the maximum pitch count heading in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s sweltering first round of the Class B South baseball tournament.

In stepped senior reliever Garrett Mollica, who held off stubborn Poland for the final two innings, allowing sixth-seeded Leavitt (9-8) to slip away with a 6-1 victory over 11th-ranked Poland (7-10).

“I think it went pretty good,” Mollica said. “I was hitting my spots a lot, causing easy ground balls and pop flies. Everybody was making plays when they had to.”

Leavitt next travels to face No. 3 Wells on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Wallingford held his own through five tough innings as the Knights made him work for every out. He struck out seven batters and backed out of a tense base-loaded situation in the fourth inning.

But Wallingford held his ground and eased the Hornets out of the inning without giving up a run.

“I think a big part of (winning) was our focus,” Leavitt coach Chris Cifelli said. “This was a very good team. (Poland) hung in there with some really good clubs during the season. So we really had to give our best in all three facets of the game.

“When we struggled to score, we were able to focus and keep them off the board as much as possible. We had two good pitching performances from our guys. Mollica hasn’t pitched in relief the whole season.”

The Hornets scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Ben Sirois led off with a hit, moved to second on Wyatt Hathaway’s single and scored after he stole third base and then dashed home on an errant Poland throw.

Poland tied the game in the bottom of the third when Mitchell Bean scored after stealing second and third then coming home on Brody Keefe’s ground-out to second.

From there on in, the Hornets plodded along against starting pitcher Hunter Gibson, who slowed down Leavitt’s offense.

“I thought Hunter battled as best he could, had great stuff today, and unfortunately at the end of the day, we made too many mistakes,” Poland coach Charles Pray said. “We didn’t make enough plays behind him. 

“Hats off to Leavitt for putting the ball in play. They battle so hard. They make every pitch a tough pitch, and they got (Gibson’s) pitch count up, as we were trying to do with their pitcher. At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did.”

The Hornets collected another run in the second when Blake Springer brought home Kaden Trenoweth, who led off with a single, to make 2-1. In the fifth, Mollica gave the Hornets breathing room after he singled and brought home Sirois, who got on via an error and moved to second on a Hathaway bunt, to make it 3-1.

The Hornets used two errors and pair of RBI singles to bring three runs home, with Trenoweth and pinch runners Blaine Shaw and Will Keach each scoring a run.

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