Watson blasts game-winner to lift Cougars
ROACHDALE -- North Putnam senior Tyler Watson had only one hit in Tuesday's contest with South Putnam, but it was a whopper. After a feisty Eagles' squad battled back to tie the game 10-all, Watson blasted a game-winning homer in the bottom of the sixth to lift the Cougars to an 11-10 victory.
"I was happy for Tyler Watson," North Putnam head coach Norm Fish said. "He's really worked hard and worked through a lot of adversity with his arm last year. This year he's throwing pretty well and he needed that.
"He came in and took care of business on the mound and then gets the game-winning homerun. I'm really happy for him. Hopefully that will lift him up for a few games," he added.
As strong winds whipping across North Putnam's home field, the game didn't start how the Cougars had imagined. On the second pitch of the game, South Putnam's Rob Gibson connected on a long homerun to centerfield giving the Eagles the edge 1-0.
South Putnam's lead was short-lived as the Cougars went off for five runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 5-1 lead. North Putnam wasn't done and added five more runs the following inning and took a 10-3 advantage after the Eagles crossed the plate in the third.
Despite finding themselves down seven runs to the Cougars, South Putnam refused to give up and began chipping away at the lead. Gibson hit his second homer of the game helping the Eagles score two in the fourth to cut the lead to 10-5.
And they weren't quite finished.
Gibson and Seth Hammond had RBI singles and a big shot from Grant Zimmerman found its way to the fence to score Hammond pulling South Putnam within two at 10-8.
The Cougars failed to score in the bottom of the fifth inning and it gave the Eagles all the opportunity they needed.
Aaron Parker got things going with a double that smacked the fence. Next up was Cody Heller who already had an RBI double back in the third inning. After one pitch, Heller turned on a pitch from Austin Day and it rode the wind and found its way over the fence to tie the game at 10-all. Watson came to the mound for the Cougars and struck out the next three batters.
With the momentum clearly with the Eagles, North Putnam had one more trick up its sleeve.
With the wind still whipping and swirling, Watson set to work to help his own cause and hit a stout shot to centerfield that cleared the fence and gave the Cougars the 11-10 lead going into the final inning.
Gibson led things off with a single and moved to third following an error, which allowed Hammond to reach first. With runners on first and third with no outs, it looked as if the Eagles were ready to at least tie the game if not go for the win. But Watson flexed his muscle and struck out two of the final three batters, with Kaleb Belcher recording the final out at third base.
Fish said his pitching staff is struggling, but gave credit to South Putnam for getting the big hits it needed.
"South Putnam hit the heck out of the ball," Fish said. "We have a lot of work to do on our pitching staff. Kyler Badten is struggling. He's our No. 1 pitcher. Austin Day came in and didn't do anything wrong, they just got a couple big hits and then they hit a two-run shot, which wasn't a bad pitch. They just did a good job."
South Putnam head coach Ryan Gilman said his team did something Tuesday it has struggled with earlier in the season and he was happy to see the change.
"It was one of those thing we've been preaching to the kids," Gilman said. "When we get down, when we have a bad inning or two, how do we bounce back from that, In the early part of the season we didn't do a very good job bouncing back, but tonight I thought we did a pretty good job."
Gibson was 5-or-5 for South Putnam with two homeruns and three RBIs, while Heller was 3-for-4 with a homerun, a double and three RBIs.
It might have been a senior who connected on the game-winning homerun for his squad, but Fish wanted to shine the spotlight on a freshman that began at catcher and finished the night at third base.
"I thought Kaleb Belcher made a big play. A freshman, I moved him from catcher to third base and he makes an error right off the bat, which is acceptable. He comes back and gets the last out on not a real easy play. I was real happy to see that," Fish said.
At North Putnam
S. Putnam 102 232 0 -- 10 11 5
N. Putnam 055 001 X -- 11 9 1
WP -- Watson
LP -- Zimmerman
HR -- Gibson (2) (SP), Heller (SP); Watson (NP)
3B -- Zimmerman (SP)
2B -- Hammond (SP), Parker (SP), Heller (SP), Thompson (SP); Knowling (NP)