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Aggressive style gives Eagles a win

By Daniel Paulling dpaulling@paducahsun.com

With two of the First Region's top pitchers starting, Thursday's game between Graves County and Paducah Tilghman was the pitchers' duel it appeared it would be for four innings.

But then Graves County changed its approach at the plate, leading to a nine-run fifth inning in a 12-1 road win against Tilghman shortened to six innings because of the mercy rule.

"I did not like taking those fastballs down the middle," Eagles coach Paul Elliott said. "We can't put ourselves in 0-1 counts throughout the game. I thought we didn't do a good job recognizing (Tilghman starting pitcher Jacob Underhill) was not coming in.

"When we did, we hit the ball the way we needed to."

Consider that an understatement.

Underhill faced the minimum of 12 hitters through four innings, but the Eagles sent 13 hitters to the plate in the fifth.

Eagles Justin Hayden, Peyton Puckett and Austin Jones started the inning with consecutive singles, and a walk to Ryan Travis drove home the first run. The next three Eagles produced RBIs, the first and third on fielder's choices and the middle on a single by Clayton Carrico.

Underhill appeared he'd escape further damage, but Blue Tornado right fielder Travis Crouch committed the second error of the inning and allowed another run to score.

The Eagles then drew consecutive walks to load the bases, but Puckett produced an infield single that ended Underhill's night. Two wild pitches from reliever Jordan Kendall allowed two runs to score, and the Blue Tornado's third error of the inning allowed the ninth run to score.

"We definitely didn't expect that," Elliott said. "They had some bad luck. We got a couple of bloop base hits. It was a perfect storm for us. They got caught in a bad situation."

Underhill (4-2) was charged with all nine runs, though just four were earned, in taking the loss. Graves County had five hits and three walks in the fifth.

He entered with a 2.52 ERA over 25 innings, but it jumped to 3.34.

"Once he gets ahead, he was throwing his offspeed pitches, and they were moving," Hayden said. "We just tried to jump on first-pitch fastballs. It was huge. It gave us momentum."

The Eagles added three runs in the sixth with the big hit being Tanner Smith's two-run double.

The Blue Tornado (12-5) scored once in the bottom of the sixth, but the game ended then because the Eagles (11-4) had built at least a 10-run lead.

Hayden (4-0) struck out four over four innings to earn the win.

His victory helped the Eagles continue their turnaround from last season. They're just two wins shy of matching the 13 victories they had last season

"We lost several close games (last year)," Elliott said. "We're winning the close games this year. We're not striking out as much. We're putting the ball in play more. We've got better overall team speed. The kids have worked hard in the offseason."           

-----

Graves County  000  093 12 9 0

Paducah Tilghman  000  001  1 6 3

Hayden, Smith (5) and Travis, Gough (7); Underhill, Kendall (5) and Armstrong.

WP: Hayden (4-0). LP: Underhill (4-2).

2B: GC-Smith. 3B: none. HR: none. Top hitters: GC-Smith 1-3 (2 RBIs), Hayden 2-3, Puckett 2-3 (RBI); PT-Butler 2-3.

Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.

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