By DANNY P. SMITH
MABEN – East Webster Wolverines shortstop Jamie McKee can be happy on Friday afternoon that baseball can sometimes be a game of second chances.
After striking out swinging against Hollandale-Simmons pitcher De'Brille Grant in the second inning, McKee hit the next pitch he saw out of the park for a three-run home run in the fourth.
McKee's blast was one of only four hits off Grant, but East Webster was able to do enough with the offense to capture a 5-1 victory in Cumberland. The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead in the first-round Class 2A playoff series.
East Webster head coach Wes Johnson said if any one of his hitters can adjust from one at-bat to the next, it's McKee.
"He's been our most consistent hitter all year," Johnson said. "He's a guy that's played in two All-Star Games and he's had a really good senior year."
Following walks to Codie Silver and Tyler Doss, McKee stepped out and hit a fastball from Grant just inside the leftfield foul pole to break a 1-1 tie.
McKee realized the trick to hitting Grant was not to get in too big of a hurry.
"He was throwing slow so I had to wait back and hit it," McKee said. "He was getting ahead with that breaking ball he throws."
Grant kept the Wolverines off-balance for most of the day. He showed a bit of wildness with seven walks, but also recorded seven strikeouts.
East Webster did get to Grant for a run in the first inning when a baseball hit by Ty Hendrix pulled Hollandale-Simmons first baseman Quintarrius Grant off the bag allowing McKee to score.
The Wolverines returned the favor in the third inning with their only error of the game that helped the Blue Devils tie the game. After Mikell Grey reached on a single. he stole second base, then went to third on a passed ball and came home on the error.
McKee broke the tie and gave starting pitcher Ty Hendrix a three-run lead with his homer and East Webster got one more run in the sixth when Austin Halford executed a perfect squeeze bunt to bring McKee across the plate.
Hendrix pitched around trouble in the sixth and seventh to finish off the win. He had five strikeouts, scattered seven hits and only walked two.
Johnson knows Hendrix can pitch better.
"Ty sometimes struggles throwing his breaking ball for strikes," Johnson said. "He got fortunate that there were some hard hit balls right at people and we made the plays. It was definitely not one of his better outings."
Other than the long ball off McKee's bat, Halford, Doss and Ty Hendrix had one single each.
Even though Grant's deceptive nature on the mound made things tough for the Wolverines, Johnson thought his club should have performed better on a day after the school held its prom.
"We didn't play very well and didn't hit very well, but we squeaked out a win," Johnson said. "I don't know if it didn't have more to do with us staying out until 2 a.m. after the prom last night. We're going to see if we can get the cobwebs out before we go home (Friday)."
East Webster, which improved its record to 16-5, travel to Hollandale today for the second and possible third games scheduled to begin at noon.