By Quinton Bagley
The Daily Citizen
One year after losing in the semifinals of the Class AAA state baseball tournament, Harding Academy had a chance to exercise some demons Monday the Wildcats faced Corning with a trip to the Class AAA state championship game on the line.
Harding Academy wasted little time in putting runs on the board against the Bobcats, and behind a stingy Wildcat defense and Matt Lincoln on the mound, Harding Academy punched its ticket to the title game with a 10-4 win over Corning.
The Wildcats scored three runs in the second inning to take the early lead. Lance Carr led off the bottom of the inning with a triple. Carr scored on an error by the Bobcat short stop, who was trying to field Josh Spears’ ground ball, to give Harding Academy a 1-0 lead. T.J. Thompson reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and then scored on J.T. Fisher’s single to increase the Wildcat lead. Fisher would score Harding Academy’s final run in the inning off a base hit by Braxton Bennett and a Corning error.
After the Bobcats scored their first run in the top of the third, the Wildcats scored in the bottom of the third to keep their lead at three. Matt Calhoun reached on an error by Corning and then scored on a passed ball during Spears’ at bat to make the score 4-1 in favor of Harding Academy.
In the fourth, the flood gate would open as the Wildcats scored five runs to increase their lead to 9-1. Thompson led off the inning with a double, then advance to third on James Dillard’s bunt single. Fisher was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the Wildcats with no outs in the inning. Bennett’s pop up to second fell to the ground advancing all runners and scoring Thompson. The Corning second baseman was charged with the error.
Lincoln singled to score Dillard, bringing Calhoun back to the plate. Calhoun found the gap in right center field for a triple. Fisher and Lincoln both came around to score giving the Wildcats an 8-1 lead. Calhoun would also score on a fielder’s choice by Ty Finley to give Harding Academy a commanding 9-1 lead.
The Bobcats did not go away quietly as they scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning, but the Wildcats added another run of their own when Spears drove in the final run for the ‘Cats with a triple to the wall in center to make the score 10-4 entering the seventh, where it would end as Corning could get nothing going offensively.