Owens lifts Bulldogs to dramatic playoff berth

Published 1:05pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A near season-ender became a season extender.
Needing a win Saturday to take a playoff spot, Holtville’s lone senior Auston Owens stepped into the batter’s box with the game on the line in the bottom of the seventh. Down two runs with bases loaded versus Elmore County, Owens’s screaming groundball toward the hole between the first and second baseman scored two runs and forced a throw into the visitor’s dugout that brought the game-winning 9-8 run in for the Bulldogs at Smart-Collier Field.

Holtville senior Auston Owens puts the game-winning hit in play. Photo by Cory Diaz
Holtville senior Auston Owens puts the game-winning hit in play. Photo by Cory Diaz

“That’s big to have that senior come up on senior day and knock us into the playoffs, says a lot,” Holtville head coach Kevin Hall said.
But Owens almost didn’t get the chance to extend his team’s season, during his potential last game at Holtville, due to an off-campus weight lifting accident.
“He missed about half the year because he was working out and the bench collapsed on his fingers and almost chopped one of them off,” Hall said. “He’s gotten back and slowly gotten into it. It’s his first year back, he didn’t play the last two years. He won’t ever forget it.
“To have him up in that situation, being our senior, to get the game-winning hit. We gave him the ball that went in the dugout.”
And Owens got the postseason-bound hit opportunity only after a botched double play exchange from ECHS second baseman Brady Knight and shortstop Michael Wayne Walls with one out in the seventh.
“Seems like the stars aligned to give ourselves a chance,” Hall said. “Good things happen if you just give yourself a chance. I think it’ll help the younger guys. To actually get to see that it’s not over until that final out, that anything can take place. The ball getting thrown in the dugout, I mean what’s the chances that would even happen?”
The Panthers held leads over the Bulldogs the first two games in a series where the latter couldn’t spare a loss. At Elmore County Friday, ECHS jumped on top 4-0 in the first inning before Holtville stormed back for the 11-6 victory. In the game at Holtville, the Panthers lead 8-5 as they needed just three outs to spoil the Bulldogs’ playoff dreams.
A one-out hit from junior Gray Geddie down the left field line scored sophomore Ty Hall to cut ECHS’s lead to 8-6. Two batters later with the infield in, Owens scored Geddie, junior Kelvin Gullatte and pinch runner Eli Pharr to win. With a dozen errors in the series with the Panthers, Hall said his team needed the timely hits, plus a little luck.
“Last week or so, we’ve had some things go our way, which in the playoffs, you got to have things go your way to keep pushing,” Hall said. “Backs against the wall, the pressure is on. They answered it, credit to them.
“I hope it carries over to the Dadeville series that we just play better defense, keep the hitting going. Pitching’s been keeping us in it all year. If we can just keep that going, I feel like our chances in a two-out-of-three series against anybody, we have a chance.”
Holtville (15-16) opens up Class 4A first round baseball action at Dadeville with a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. If necessary, a third game will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. at Dadeville.

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