Austin Downey was one strike away from sitting down the ninth consecutive Tallassee batter and being one out from a no-hitter Monday night. However, Tallassee catcher Reece Graham connected with a pitch and sent a line drive just over the glove of the leaping shortstop for the Tigers’ first hit of the night.
Downey quickly shook off the disappointment and struck out the final two batters of the night to finish his first complete game of the season and give Elmore County a 2-0 win over its county rivals. Downey finished with 10 strikeouts and allowed just two walks before grabbing his second victory of the season.
“About the third inning I knew I was going to shut it down,” Downey said. “Being able to come out here against our rival and play some good ball, that just feels great.”
The Panthers (3-1) had not played in a game in six days due to bad weather and while the rain held off Monday night, the cold temperatures did not make things easier. Elmore County struggled to give Downey any run support because of some mental mistakes on the base paths.
“Austin got in a groove and that was huge,” ECHS coach Michael Byrd said. “Offensively, I thought we had good at bats but we had some costly outs on the bases. We were two or three hits from a 6-0 game. That comes from not playing many games so I think those are things we can clean up.”
After two quick outs to start the game, Elmore County grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Landon Maynard scored on a wild pitch. That was all Downey needed to lead the Panthers to victory.
“When we get in the lead with Austin on the mound, you feel pretty good about it,” Byrd said. “We had Landon ready to come in but Austin was just in that groove so I had to let him go.”
Downey also led the Panthers with two hits, along with Taylor Handerson and Trey Brand. Elmore County did not grab its second run of the game until the seventh inning when Payne Watts scored on a Garrett Cole groundout.
Seven different Tallassee players were on the receiving end of a Downey strikeout. Graham reached base twice for the Tigers, battling for a walk in the fourth inning and singling in the seventh.
“We really didn’t make any adjustments at the plate all night,” Tallassee coach Adam Clayton said. “He was pounding the zone with the fastball and we struggled against the off-speed stuff. You have to shorten your swing some and we couldn’t do that. Credit to Austin though, he had a great game.”
Beau Baker pitched five innings for Tallassee but fell to 0-2 on the season. He allowed seven hits and just one unearned run while striking out two batters.
“That is disappointing,” Clayton said. “In all three of Beau’s appearances so far this year, he’s pitched well enough to win. We just have to continue to work and get our offense to spark some time.”
Because of changes made to the area alignments last year, this was the lone scheduled meeting between the two teams this season. Elmore County has now won two of the last three games in the series after losing the previous nine meetings with the Tigers.
“When you feel like it’s a rivalry, you hope your guys can get up for it,” Clayton said. “I just didn’t feel that from our guys tonight. It meant a little more to Elmore County and that showed tonight.”