Crockett senior Luke Larkins provided the game-winner, rocketing a 3-1 fastball over the right-field fence in the top of the seventh inning to lift the Pioneers to a 9-8 nonconference victory over East.
“He’s a big, strong boy and if he gets hold of it, he can sure drive it out,” said Crockett coach Nick Lingerfelt. “That’s the second time he’s done that for us this year, the other being a three-run shot against Volunteer.”
The one-out blast broke an 8-8 tie and was the only hit allowed by East right-handed reliever Tanner Leffew, who all but shut down Crockett for 5 2/3 innings.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Larkins wasn’t sure he got enough of it, but the loud clang off the McKamey Field scoreboard told the left-handed slugger all he needed to know.
“When I hit it, honestly, I thought, ‘That’s probably an out,’ ” Larkins said. “I just hoped for the best, but when I saw it disappear over the fence I was overjoyed.
“It was a great feeling, but I wouldn’t even have been in that position if our guys hadn’t been hitting and knocking in runs the first two innings when I wasn’t, and if Nolan Miller hadn’t pitched the really good game that he did.”
Miller pitched well in his 5 1/3 innings of relief, but not before Crockett and East both scored seven runs over the first two innings.
Devin Foster had two singles and three RBIs and Will Long socked a bases-loaded triple to help give Crockett a short-lived 7-2 edge through its first two at-bats.
East starter Drew Hatcher allowed five hits and five walks in 1 1/3 innings.
“Too many walks early,’’ East coach Mike Breuninger said. “Lots of walks early. But it was a good game to play with the (district) tournaments coming up next week. These are the kind of games we’ll see.”
Miller entered the game after East’s Perry Casaday capped a five-run Patriots second with a three-run homer that made it a 7-7 game.
A right-hander, Miller allowed three hits, struck out four and walked just one.
“My little sophomore did a nice job out there for us,” Lingerfelt said.
The Pioneers (8-21) and Patriots (16-10) play a return game today at Crockett, and Lingerfelt — in his first year at the helm -— hopes his club can carry some momentum into the District 1-AAA tourney.
“This is the 14th one-run game these kids have played in this year,’’ he said. “This was our fourth win among those games, so hopefully we’re figuring out how to win these close games.”
FOR THE PATRIOTS
East got two RBIs from Brantley Ellis and two-hit games from Elias Arnold and Dylan White.