When the first three Haralson County batters of the game reached base, it appeared Adairsville would be in for another long day at the ballpark.
Instead, the Tigers limited the damage to three runs in the inning to avoid the huge frames that have plagued them recently. They battled back but couldn't quite overcome the early deficit in a 6-3 loss in Region 6-AAA action at LakePoint.
"They took advantage of our miscues early in the game," Adairsville head coach Billy Roper said. "I think they had one hit, and they scored three runs [in the first inning]. That's kind of the way it's been going all year.
"But it was different tonight, because I thought our kids fought. We fought harder. We told them, 'We hit the ball harder tonight than we have all year — just right at people.'"
Adairsville (3-14, 2-9) used a trio of singles — two of the infield variety — to load the bases in the first inning. Haralson County, though, wiggled out of trouble without allowing a run.
The Rebels (10-7, 6-5) upped their lead to 4-0 in the second inning before the Tigers got the run back in the fourth. B.J. Roper opened the frame with a single. After two flyouts, the senior stole second base and scored on Levi Ayers' single.
A hit, two walks and a passed ball allowed Haralson County to restore its four-run advantage in its next turn at bat, and the Rebels added another tally in the fifth.
Tuesday's game was originally scheduled to be played in Adairsville, but poor field conditions saw the game moved to LakePoint. However, the contest still suffered from a delay in the sixth inning — because of the sun.
Apparently, the umpires deemed the angle of our solar system's star to be a danger to the batter, leading to a roughly 20-minute delay until the sun began to set. It's something Billy Roper said he hadn't seen in his lifetime.
Adairsville had avoided allowing multiple runs since the first inning, but Haralson County loaded the bases in the seventh. Eli Agnew responded with a strikeout to give the Tigers some momentum, heading into their final turn at the plate.
"We threw a sophomore and three freshmen, and they kept us in the game," Roper said. "That's good to see that we had some guys coming in and playing hard.
"Just like all year, we're giving people too many freebies, and then we have to battle back to try to come back from that."
Levi Blackwell and Logan Hunt kicked off the bottom of the seventh with a couple of hits before a Kyler Smith walk loaded the bases. B.J. Roper lifted a flyball into shallow left field that dropped in front of the outfielder. The hit allowed two runners to score, but Smith was thrown out at second.
A liner to center and a strikeout finished off the win for Haralson County. Even still, Adairsville battled against a team in the thick of the playoff chase.
Roper, Ayers and Blackwell all had multiple hits. Smith, Hunt, Elijah Padgett and Evan Henry all finished 1-for-3. Agnew, Braden Powell and Jacob Ray combined to throw 3 1/3 innings of relief with just one run allowed.
Billy Roper lamented some of the missed chances, but he chose to focus on the positives after an encouraging night from his young group.
"Our seniors are doing everything we're asking," Roper said. "They haven't quit on us, and the young guys are playing hard for them.
"Offensively, we had the opportunities to get some runs. We just couldn't get them in. We hit balls hard right at them. I can't be too upset with our offense, because we did hit the ball hard tonight."