Bess bests Tigers

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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A one-run ball game went Florala pitcher John Bess’ way Tuesday night.


Bess struck out 12, allowed no runs and threw a two-hitter in seven innings to help lead the Wildcats to a 1-0 area victory over Red Level at Stevenson Field at FHS.


Twice this season and once in 2012, Bess has pitched in the wrong side of one-run games.


“I’m thankful that finally a one-run ball game goes John’s way,” FHS coach Bubba Nall said. “He’s been beat 2-1, 1-0 and last year, got beat 5-4. Finally, for his confidence, a one-run game goes his way. He just showed a lot of composure up there today.”


From the start, Bess dialed in, despite allowing the Tigers to get in scoring position in the first six innings.


The Wildcats’ defense stepped up its game against a gritty RLS baseball team.


Bess said even though his velocity could’ve dropped, he knew his defense would play behind him.


“Our defense was on point,” the winning pitcher said. “No doubt and in the clutch. Our first baseman Steven (Ratliff II) helped us out today.”


Bess said the game was one of his best.


“It’s one of my better games,” he said. “I was happy.”


With this victory, FHS improves to 9-3 overall, and 2-0 in Class 1A, Area 3. The Wildcats face Pleasant Home in their next area series next week.


RLS falls to 1-1 in area play, and will need FHS to beat PHS in order to clinch a spot in the state playoffs.


The Tigers left six men on base throughout the contest, and critical base-running mistakes in the second and sixth innings, along with not stringing together many hits allowed Florala to take advantage.


Defensively for RLS, Matt Nolen and Jordan Walker pitched a solid game for the Tigers.


Nolen allowed one earned run on three hits in three innings to get the loss. The starter held the Wildcats at bay until the fourth inning when Walker came in in relief.


Soon afterward, Walker found himself in trouble with bases loaded and two outs. Walker filled the count up to Dakota Worley and got him looking for the final out of the inning.


“He’s got ice water in his veins,” RLS coach Tony Ingram said about Walker. “He did what I knew he could do.”


On the game as a whole, Ingram said Tuesday night’s contest was a perfect example of how a baseball game should be played.


“I told our kids, I don’t like to lose, but 1-0 baseball is a baseball game,” the Tigers coach said. “That’s a baseball game. Fourteen to four, 15-5 that’s not baseball.


“Overall, we played as hard as we could play,” he said. “We’re struggling at the plate, trying to manufacture some runs. The Bess kid did a good job for seven innings. You lose with your best — Nolen and Walker — that’s the best I’ve got. When you lose with them, you can go home.”


Walker finished the final three innings and allowed no runs on one hit while striking out five batters.


Florala scored its only run in the bottom of the first inning when Gavin McCurley hit a line drive down the third-base line for a double to score courtesy runner Logan Ansley, who ran for Bess. Bess reached on a hit by pitch.


“We saw a good Red Level team today and I think we saw three good pitchers,” Nall said. “They threw two good pitchers out there.


“We did enough to win,” he said. “We had a lot of base-running errors. We had people in scoring position with no outs and couldn’t put the ball in play, but we’ll get better.”


Nall was speaking about the fourth inning, specifically, when Walker came in, and in the second, where RLS made an inning-ending double play to quiet the runners.


Bess went 2-for-2 with two singles to lead the Wildcats; and McCurley went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.


Walker and Cody Marler had a double each to lead RLS.