After splitting the first two games in area play, Tallassee jumped out to a three-run lead on Valley after three innings on Friday afternoon. However, Valley scored seven unanswered runs to finish the game, beating the Tigers 8-4 in the series finale.
“We just ran out of gas there at the end,” Tallassee coach Adam Clayton said. “We jumped out on them early and I told them, ‘You have to smell blood when you have a team like that.’ But we couldn’t do anything to put them away and the momentum shifted and they took advantage of it.”
In each of the three games of the series, the team which took the lead first came out on the losing end of the final score. After falling 7-4 in the first game at Valley, Tallassee found itself in trouble of being swept when it trailed 4-0 in the second inning of Game 2.
However, the Tigers stormed back and took their first lead of the game on a two-run single by Jake Justiss in the fourth inning. Logan Pierce and Jackson Gantt added two more RBIs before Tallassee held off a late rally to win 7-6.
“We could be in a whole lot worse shape,” Clayton said. “The biggest thing is that 1-1 is a lot better than being 0-2. We’re still alive so we just have to take care of our business and do what we need to do to get into the playoffs.”
Tallassee is officially 1-1 in Class 5A Area 4 play but the third game could come into play if the Tigers are tied with Valley in the standings at the end of the regular season. After closing out the second game on the mound, Gantt was called on to start the tiebreaker and pitched three strong innings to start the game.
However, the Rams had four consecutive batters reach base with one out and they took the lead on a groundball to short, scoring the fourth run of the inning. Tallassee had action in its bullpen but the team elected to stick with Gantt to try to get out of the inning.
“With him being a senior and with that experience, we wanted him to try to get out of it,” Clayton said. “He pitched well and if we make a couple of different plays to help him, he may have finished the game.”
Once Valley took the lead, the momentum never returned to Tallassee’s dugout. The Tigers had just four baserunners in the final four innings after having 12 in the first three frames.
“You would hope with as many games as we’ve played that those nerves would go away by now,” Clayton said. “But in an area series, everything kind of heightens. It’s a game of momentum and a game of emotion.”
Leaving runners on base and in scoring position was the key struggle for Tallassee during the series. The Tigers left 34 runners on base across the three games and hit just .219 with runners on second or third.
“You just have to continue to work at it,” Clayton said. “You have to do those situational drills in practice and that’s something we work on every day. It just has to translate to the field.”
Tallassee returns to area play this week with games against Beauregard. The Tigers will host Beauregard on Wednesday night before traveling for the second game and possible tiebreaker Thursday.