SPANISH FORT — Pierce Dutton’s leaping catch at the wall with the bases loaded emphatically sealed Spanish Fort’s 7-4 win over St. Paul’s Thursday evening on Opening …
SPANISH FORT — Pierce Dutton’s leaping catch at the wall with the bases loaded emphatically sealed Spanish Fort’s 7-4 win over St. Paul’s Thursday evening on Opening Day.
Even with the ball in the air and Dutton tracking over his shoulder near the warning track, both he and his head coach JD Pruitt knew the Toro centerfielder was coming down with that catch.
“I told everybody to expect the ball and the ball was hit to me,” Dutton said after the game. “I got a good jump on it and every time I think to myself, ‘I’m going to catch this ball, I’ve just gotta go out and get it.’”
He did indeed go out and get it, then crashed into the wall before quickly hopping up to celebrate with his team.
“That Pierce Dutton is out there, and that ball is caught,” Pruitt said of his thoughts during the ball’s flight. “He’s a heck of a player and he’s the type of kid that is willing to sacrifice his body running into a wall to go make a play for his teammates.”
FINAL: Spanish Fort 7 St. Paul’s 4. Pierce Dutton ends things with a WILD leaping grab at the wall to seal the win for the Toros. His second insane catch this evening put an exclamation point on @SpanishFortBsbl’s Opening Day win. Arrest @Pierce73764079 for robbery. #ALHSBaseball pic.twitter.com/Du8mbGjbwf— Gulf Coast Media Sports (@GCMSportsAL) February 17, 2023
Holley has huge impact on both sides
Spanish Fort only had a lead thanks to an RBI double from Jack Holley that gave the hosts a 5-4 lead after five full innings.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play and get a job done, as our coach says,” Holley said. “It’s a team sport, and you want to do anything you can to get that run in. I wouldn’t have been in that spot if the batter before me struck out or something like that.”
Holley went out to the mound and took over pitching after that and it was not long before his next impact play came where the Toro defense banded together to keep the tying run from scoring.
With one out and runners on first and third, Holley delivered a strikeout and the first St. Paul’s runner took off for second. Catcher DJ Eurgil fired down to second only to have shortstop Nehemiah Hixon cut off the throw and fire a strike back to Eurgil who slapped a tag on the Saint runner trying to score for an inning-ending double play.
“They went on release of the catcher and did exactly what we wanted them to do as far as baiting them and we were able to execute it and I think that’s the big thing,” Pruitt said. “We actually went over that — I believe yesterday — in practice, just as a review and I said, ‘Hey this is going to come up at some point in this game, even though it’s early in the season.’ Luckily for us, it all goes back to the execution of the play and our kids did a phenomenal job of it.”
Toros thankful to be on the field Thursday
After what looked like a near umpire strike could have affected Opening Day, rain seemed sure to hit the Baldwin County area in the afternoon to wipe out the slate. Instead, an agreement was made to have umpires officiate the games and not a drop of rain fell at Spanish Fort High School the rest of the afternoon.
Pruitt and the team both mentioned how thankful they were just to be out on the field again.
“I think it’s no secret that with all the issues with umpires (it looked doubtful) and then we’re having to battle a 96% chance of rain and thinking that we’re not even going to get to play,” Pruitt said. “For the weather to push north of us then to overcome the issues with the umpires and actually get people here to call it — and that’s what it’s all about, it’s about the kids. The kids have worked their tails off all fall so we’ve got to do whatever we can to resolve this issue to allow these kids to play uninhibited again.”
“It’s always good getting the W at home in front of the fans and giving them what they deserve but I’m just happy to be here with my team and the fans are along for the ride to see it,” Holley said.
The Toros will quickly reset and be back in action tomorrow at home against Prattville. In other Opening Day action in Spanish Fort Thursday, McGill-Toolen stole a 5-4 win from the Gulf Shores Dolphins before the Toros’ contest.
“We don’t have all the talent but we’ve got all the dogs,” Dutton said. “Really proud of all of our guys.”
“We’ve got a bunch of dudes on this team that I have all the faith in the world in so at the end of the day, it’s us versus the state basically,” Holley said. “But it is just the first game, like Kobe said, ‘Job’s not finished,’ but I’m excited.”
“One thing I can say about this group, this is a very resilient group. I think we started five sophomores tonight but it’s a very resilient group and that’s the way that they’ve been all fall long,” Pruitt said. “It’s a great group of kids first and foremost so that makes coaching really fun and then it makes it even better when you come out on top.”