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It was Ryan Mann's time to make a play.
"I was just planning on getting on base," Mann said warming up for his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. "I don't care what my stats look like as long as we get the win."
Mann did more than get on base, he hit a walk-off home run over the left field wall to give Starkville Academy a 3-2 nine-inning victory over Hillcrest Christian in the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday.
"I saw the (new pitcher) warming up and I knew he was going to come in with a lot of fastballs," Mann said. "I was ahead in the count 2-1 and I was expecting a fastball, and he brought one in waist high and I just teed off on it."
SA head coach Neal Henry was glad to see Mann step up in a moment like that and make the most of the opportunity.
"They brought in a new pitcher," Henry said. "He saw a fastball and hit it. He got it done."
The Volunteers got a run in the second and the Cougars tied it up with a run in the fourth inning.
The Cougars took a 2-1 lead after a sacrifice fly just after a controversial call at third base on a double steal.
"Umpires are a part of the game," Henry said. "I thought I saw something different than he did. He said 'the ball didn't beat him there' and I saw the ball beat him there."
The Volunteers didn't waste any time. They tied the game in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs and a runner on third, Henry decided to let John McReynolds pinch hit for Austin Miles.
McReynolds hit a shot right at the third baseman who couldn't come up with it, allowing Doug Pettit to score and tie the game.
"He is hitting the ball well and seeing the ball well," Henry said. "You want to get him an at-bat sometime during the game. I just wanted to get somebody that would put it in play."
Drew Pellum pitched all nine innings getting the win for the Vols. He gave up only two hits in the outing.
"Drew pitched an awesome game," Henry said. "You couldn't ask anything more from Drew. They are the No. 5 team in the state. Beat them (Wednesday) and you know they are going to come battle (Thursday). Drew threw all nine innings. He threw strikes. That's what we need out of him."
Hunter Bolin had three hits to lead SA. Stephen Robertson had two hits.
Starkville Academy 2
Hillcrest Christian 1,
Bolin got it done on the mound, as well as the plate to give SA the doubleheader sweep.
"We told them the whole week where we stood with (Hillcrest)," Henry said. "We are fighting with them and they are going to be a playoff team."
Bolin pitched all seven innings recording 10 strikeouts. Bolin only allowed one run on six hits.
"He is a bulldog," Henry said. "He gets it done on the mound every single time. We know what we are going to get out of him. He goes up there and competes."
Henry also gave credit to catcher Colby Runnels as he called the whole game for Bolin.
"Hats off to Colby Runnels for calling that game," Henry said. "We trust him enough to call what Hunter throws."
Pitching coach Casey Orr, also has something to do with how well the pitching staff and Bolin have done this year.
"What he has done is the reason we are 19-7," Henry said.
Bolin led off the bottom of the first with a single and was later driven in by Mann's sacrifice fly to center field to give the Vols a 1-0 lead.
Bolin drove in Ryan McKell an inning later after he reached on an infield single.
The Cougars got a run in the fourth on an RBI single, but that's all they got.
Bolin had two hits to give him five for the day.
"He went 0-for-3 at Hillcrest," Henry said. "He learned from his mistakes (Wednesday) and came (Thursday) with an attitude of 'I'm not going to be like that anymore.' He stayed on the ball, he hit and he did a good job with it."
Pellum had a single and a double to give him multiple hits.
The Vols improved to 19-7 overall and 9-5 in district play. They are now in first place with the three-game game sweep as they beat Hillcrest on Wednesday.
The Cougars are 8-6 in district play, but SA hold the tiebreaker. Each team has four district games left to decide which will be the No. 1 seed.
SA will be back in action Monday when they host Presbyterian Christian.