PURVIS – As relief pitcher Walker Flatt looked into the stands of Purvis’ stadium on Saturday night, he noticed his mother shedding tears at the thought of the senior playing his last game.
Despite being down just 2-0 in the third inning, things began to grow more desperate as Purvis faced elimination against Stone, but Flatt used his mother’s emotions to fuel a shutout outing that helped Tornados come up with a 3-2 win.
“Before the game, I looked into the stands, and I saw my mom crying,” Flatt said. “This would have been my last game since I’m a senior this year. That just motivated me so much to be a bulldog on the mound and show what I have got.
“I just kept my head in the zone, and I thought about my mom. She was crying out there. I remember when my brother was a senior and how hard it was when he lost his last game.”
Stone’s momentum from the Tomcats’ Friday win appeared to have carried over early in the game. Purvis’ starting pitcher Jacob Parker struggled as he loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning after giving up a leadoff single and then walking two batters. Luckily, Parker minimized the damage and only gave up an RBI sac fly that gave Stone (16-9) a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Then in the third inning, Jacob Parker gave up a leadoff walk and then a single before the Tomcats scored a run on a fielder’s choice to push the Tomcats’ lead to 2-0. Parker walked the last batter he faced before being pulled as he struck out three batters, walked four, hit one and allowed two runs off two hits in his outing.
That’s what when Flatt entered the game as he retired the next two batters to prevent further damage.
“He’s done that all the year,” Purvis coach Tony Farlow said. “He’s had one game where he didn’t have the eye of the tiger, but all year he has that eye of the tiger look in his eyes. He stopped the bleeding, and somehow, we hung around.”
From there, Flatt rolled past Stone’s lineup, with his only blemishes being a one-out single in the third inning and a leadoff double in the sixth inning. In 4.2 innings, Flatt struck out six batters and gave up no walks in 57 pitches.
“I approached the batters by staying on the outside corners a lot,” Flatt said. “I was working my curveball in and out. All around, I just had a good night.
“I wasn’t letting my last game (end like that). I wasn’t letting them go out like that. it wasn’t going to be my fault.”
On the offensive side, Purvis (18-7) struggled to string hits against Stone’s starting pitcher Adrian Byrd, who allowed just three hits in the game and struck out seven batters. In fact, Byrd’s effectiveness on the mound had Purvis coach Tony Farlow beginning to think about his end of the season speech before the Tornados caught a series of lucky breaks in the bottom of the sixth inning to decide the game.
“The pitcher was completely dominant,” Farlow said. “Things went our way for one inning this whole series, but we’ll take it. Momentum changed and somehow, we won it. I don’t know how.”
Jojo Parker led off with a double, but after Stone’s second baseman caught a line drive, Bryd began to struggle with his control. Byrd hit a batter and then threw a wild pitch to move Parker to third base. Byrd then gave up a walk, but the ball got passed the catcher and allowed Parker to score from third base to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“Briefly before we started the sixth inning, we talked about not quitting and not laying down and fighting to the end,” Farlow said. “I look around, and we have a little pep to our step. It was the top of the lineup too, so that was good. It says a lot about our team that we had that in us.”
Another passed ball then moved both of Purvis’ runners to second and third base to set up the game-winning play. Ethan Walker looked to hit into a fielder’s choice, but Stone’s first baseman missed the routine throw, which allowed both of Purvis’ runners to score and ultimately gave the game to the Tornados.
“I think that’s just the brutality of baseball,” Farlow said. “We got what we wanted. We felt that if we could get this to a three games series, then that was our best chance to try and win it.
“We have some guys that we’ll piece together (on the mound),” Farlow said. “But we have to get going offensively. We haven’t hit in a long time.
“Maybe the playing field will be a little bit even as far as pitching on Monday.”
Purvis will travel to Stone on Monday to decide the series, with the winner advancing to the second round of the 4A playoffs.