Bowling Green advances in baseball playoffs

By JOHNNIE DANIEL,

Bowling Green's Timmy Ruffino scored with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete an improbable comeback over Central Hinds Academy in Game 3 of the best-of-three series.

With the score tied 10-10, Buccaneers Coach Justin Garcia made the call to steal home which caused a balk from the Cougars' pitcher that provided the final margin of victory.

With the series win, the Buccaneers (20-7) advance to the second round of the MAIS Class AAA playoffs where they will face defending State Champion Central Private School.

Bowling Green captured Game 1 of the series last Tuesday when they traveled to Central Hinds Academy and returned with a 4-3 victory. Any thoughts of advancing in the playoffs were in serious jeopardy after the Bucs dropped a 4-2 nine inning contest in Game 2 and then found themselves in an early 7-0 hole after two innings of the series finale. Central Hinds jumped out to an early Game 3 lead by scoring two in the first and five in the second for a commanding early lead. In his first varsity action of the season, freshman pitcher Matthew Bienvenu entered in the third inning and held the Cougars' bats at bay long enough to allow the Bucs to plate three runs and gain a little momentum. Ruffino walked to lead off the Buccaneers half of the third. Cam Bell was hit by a pitch and Cade Knight reached on an error to load the bases. Casey Burge singled to left to score Ruffino, Bell scored on a Cougars' error and Knight scored on a sacrifice fly from Drew Wagner that cut the deficit to 7-3.

In the top of the fifth, Central Hinds pushed across three runs to increase their lead to 10-3. Bowling Green answered in the bottom half of the inning when Knight lined a one-out single to left that was followed by a home run off the bat of Burge to make it a 10-5 game after five innings. Bell recorded a 1-2-3 inning on the mound in the sixth while the Bucs inched closer to Central Hinds. Bienvenu drew a one-out walk, Hunter Wilkinson singled and Ruffino walked to load the bases. Sammy Phelps entered the game as a courtesy runner for Wilkinson. Bienvenu scored on an infield error and a walk to Burge forced in another run before the third out was recorded. The Cougars held a 10-7 lead after six innings.

After a scoreless seventh for Central Hinds, Bowling Green had only three outs to extend their season. Denzel Evans led off with a walk and stole second before scoring on a double to right by Ben Hicks. Mitchell Lott and Ruffino drew walks around the Buccaneers first out of the inning. Hicks scored on a passed ball and Lott crossed home plate on an infield groundout from Bell to tie the score at 10-10. Knight was hit by a pitch and Burge walked to load the bases with two outs. With Wagner at the plate with a two strike count, Ruffino headed home from third-base. The Cougars' balk provided the winning run as Bowling Green players created a dog pile just in front of the pitcher's mound after the come-from-behind win.

Burge led the Bucs with 2 hits and 4 RBI while Knight (2 runs scored), Hicks (1 RBI and 1 run scored) and Wilkinson each had one hit. Bell had 2 RBI with 1 run scored in the finale.

In Tuesday's Game 1 win, the Bucs scored a run in the fourth inning to take an early lead. Central Hinds answered with 3 in the fifth before Bowling Green plated 2 in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. A one-out walk to Lott in the seventh was followed by an RBI double from Wilkinson to put the Bucs ahead for good as Bowling Green took a 1-0 series lead. Burge (2 RBI and 1 run scored), Evans (1 RBI), Wilkinson (1 RBI), Bell and Wagner each had one hit for the Bucs. Ruffino pitched 4.1 innings giving up 3 runs (2 earned) and striking out 3, Hicks went 1.2 scoreless innings and Burge closed out the game by pitching 1 inning of scoreless relief while striking out 2.

In Friday's Game 2, the Buccaneers and Cougars were tied at 2-2 after 3 innings. Neither team scored again until Central Hinds plated two runs in the top of the ninth to force Game 3. Wilkinson (1 RBI) and Bell had 2 hits each for the Bucs. Knight (1 run scored), Hicks (1 run scored), Burge (1 RBI) and Rece Dillon each and 1 hit. Burge pitched 6.1 innings giving up 2 runs and striking out 7 with Hicks going 2.2 innings and giving up 2 runs while striking out 1.