Marked Tree was just glad to be in the Region 4 Championship game last year. This year, the Indians had a different attitude. They came to win, and win they did.
John Ed Turpen's two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth inning powered the Indians to the tournament championship with a 6-5 extra inning victory over Bay Wednesday afternoon at Monette.
With darkness falling, Matt Tacker led off the ninth inning with a single and immediately stole second base. One out later, Loren Ghant hit a high bouncer to second that was misplayed into an error leaving runners on the corners with one out. Bay reliever Josh McMasters, who a day earlier had pitched the Yellowjackets into the state tournament, fanned the Indians' Matt Malone for the second out of the inning. But Turpen roped a single to right field to drive in what proved to be the winning run.
Marked Tree jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first as Turpen sliced an RBI single over the first base bag, scoring William Ruthven who had reached on an error and advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Bay starter Garrett Bollinger. Phillip Bickerstaff drove in the game's second run with a sacrifice fly.
The Indians tacked on three more runs in the second as Clint Hawkins led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Bollinger got Ethan Frazier to ground out and struck out Matt Tacker but Ruthven delivered a towering two-out two-run homer to left field to give the Indians a 4-0 lead. Loren Ghant followed Ruthven's home run with a single to right and advanced to second on a passed ball. Ghant scored when Matt Malone's grounder to short went through the legs of Bay's Will Scott, putting the Indians up 5-0.
Bay charged back in the bottom of the second, scoring four runs, all with two outs. Tyler C. Griffin drove in the first Bay run with a single to left field to cut the lead to 5-1. Designated hitter R.J. Guthrie came to the plate with two men on and blasted a three run home run over the left field fence to pull the Jackets to 5-4.
The score remained 5-4 as both pitchers settled down after shaky starts until Tyler Q. Griffin launched a 2-0 pitch over the left field fence, tying the score 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth. McMasters followed with a single up the middle and moved to second on a wild pitch, bringing Tyler C. Griffin to the plate with the potential winning run sitting on second base. Griffin ripped what appeared to be a sure double down the left field line, but Marked Tree's Bickerstaff raced over, dove and made what turned out to be a game saving catch to end the inning.
"Bickerstaff's catch was definitely the play of the game," said Marked Tree Coach Matt Wright. "If he doesn't make that catch, we don't go into extra innings. This feels a lot better this year than last year. Last season we were just happy to be going to the state tournament and playing in the championship game. This year we had a much different attitude and it showed today."
"We got out to a good lead but then got into a real dogfight," continued Wright. "We were just fortunate enough to win."
Ruthven went eight innings, scattering nine hits while striking out four and walking only two to pick up the win. Hawkins came on in the bottom of the ninth inning and picked up the save.
Marked Tree (20-11) will take on Charleston Monday afternoon at 2:30 while Bay (21-8) will play host team Greenland at noon Monday afternoon.