No. 10 Etowah beats third-ranked Southside 5-4


Etowah’s Colby Dunn pitches against Southside on Thursday. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


SOUTHSIDE — A late rally, clutch hits, heads-up base running and controversy — this high school baseball game had something for everyone.

Class 5A, No. 10 Etowah knocked off third-ranked Southside 5-4 Thursday afternoon in the Area 13 opener for both teams.

The Blue Devils (12-5) scored two in the top of the seventh and rode Colby Dunn’s arm to the end for the victory.

“It’s a good game for us because we competed for seven innings,” said Etowah coach Larry Foster, whose team trailed 3-0 heading into the fourth inning. “The kids never gave up, and that’s what you look for when you have a team that hasn’t had a big win against Southside in a long time. We just came down here to compete for seven innings, and that’s what our kids done.”

Trailing 4-3 in the seventh with two outs, Etowah got a single from Paul Ruiz, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Tanner Putman then singled to center to score Ruiz, and an errant throw to home to try to get Ruiz allowed Putman to advance to second. That meant the end for Southside starter Alex Pondick, and Andrew Fuhrman was sent to the mound to try to keep the Blue Devils from doing any more damage.

It didn’t happen.

Putman scored what proved to be the game-winning run on two passed balls, and after Southside was able to get two more outs, Dunn sat down the Panthers in order in the bottom of the seventh for the win.

“He had some trouble in the middle innings, but he kept getting better and he kept getting the pitches over that we needed to get those guys out with,” Foster said of Dunn, who allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out two. “Of course, in the seventh inning he’s been a good pitcher for us all year. He’s pitches seven innings two or three times, so there wasn’t any doubt he was going to go out there. How long he stayed was up to him.”

Pondick suffered the loss, allowing five runs on six hits and striking out seven.

Southside (11-5) gave Etowah some help along the way, committing four errors in the infield.

“We started off making mistakes early (in the season), but I think the last four games we’ve played error free,” Southside coach Blake Bone said. “If you make mistakes, you get beat. That’s how this game works. We made too many of them today.”

Southside got five hits off Dunn in the third inning and took a 3-0 lead. Hunter Clough’s RBI single scored Fuhrman, Dantley Coker’s sacrifice fly plated Clough from third, and Cody Pylant singled home Blake Devine, who had doubled.

Etowah struck back in the fourth with two unearned runs. After Blane Payne reached on an error, his courtesy runner Dakota Parrish circled the bases and eventually scored on Dunn’s single. Another error later in the inning allowed Dunn to score.

The scoring allowed the Blue Devils to stop the Panthers’ momentum from the inning before.

“Generally, we talk about a shutdown inning, and we didn’t execute,” Bone said of the fourth. “We gave up 0-2 hits and made errors, and they capitalized on it. I think that was it in a nutshell as far as us continuing to do things the right way. We just didn’t make it happen today.”

The controversy came in the fifth inning on a call at second base. Etowah had runners on first and third with Josh Bobo at the plate and one out. Bobo grounded to Clough at second base, who then tried to start a double play by tossing the ball to Fuhrman. Putman, who was running to second, did not slide or peel out of Fuhrman’s way, apparently obstructing Fuhrman’s ability to throw to first. Bobo was safe by two steps at first and Nick Humphrey crossed the plate for the game-tying run, but Bone immediately argued that Putman had interfered on the play.

After a lengthy meeting between the two umpires, Bobo was ruled safe and the run was allowed. Bone spent the next several minutes unsuccesfuly pleading his case with the homeplate umpire.

“The rule is the guy must slide or peel out, and I didn’t see either one of those things happen,” Bone said after the game. “I saw him standing on top of the base. You know, it’s a judgment call I guess, and we had two different views on it.”

While it did play a part in the loss, Bone said it didn’t decide the game.

“I don’t think it did,” he said. “I go back to the (fourth) inning. You go out there and get a shutdown inning and you keep the momentum. We gave the momentum away at that point and never got it back. To me, that’s what changed the complexion of the game.”

Southside regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Coker singled with two outs, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw. He scored on a wild pitch, and a scoreless sixth inning set up the rally for the Blue Devils in the seventh.

The teams play again Saturday at Etowah. If Southside beats Etowah, they will play again to decide the winner of the three-game series.