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Williston Rallies Late For 4-2 Win Over Sneads In 1A State Semi

Sneads starter Colton Mercer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

The Sneads Pirates had an inning to forget at the worst possible time, as Williston rallied for all of is runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to steal a 4-2 win in Wednesday’s 1A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

After being held hitless for the first five innings by starter Colton Mercer and trailing by two runs, Williston struck in the sixth. Grayson Geiger and Michael Rey both reached base on errors, and Connor Neal lined an RBI single to left field that got his club on the scoreboard. That chased Mercer from the mound, and Williston greeted reliever River Clark with a double-steal on the first pitch to put both base runners into scoring position. A throwing error plated another run and pinch-hitter CJ Strange then came through with a base hit to right field to plate another.

“A lot of stuff that we did today was not a reflection on us, but we went into the game knowing we’re at the level where you can’t make mistakes and we made mistakes,” Sneads manager Andy Shelton said. “They cashed in on them. I thought our starter Colton Mercer did a real great job of pitching his tail off, and he got a timely hit that put us up 2-0 and then we gave them some free bases and didn’t make a play here and there and all of a sudden it starts snowballing and you’re down.”

Sneads kept battling and had reliever Gabe Foster in trouble in the top of the seventh when Russell Allen was hit by a pitch and Parker Hayes walked. But the defense backed Foster up with a clutch, 6-4-3 double play. A liner to left field then closed out the contest and sent the Red Devils (17-7) to their third finals appearance in the past five years.

Sneads jumped out of the gate and grabbed control with a run in the top of the first inning. Mac Danford worked a lead-off walk and a pair of ground outs to the right side by Tyler Brown and Colton Mercer pushed him within ninety feet of touching home. A passed ball then allowed Danford to slide safely in for the first run just ahead of the tag by Williston starter Parker Seay.

Russell Allen is cheered on by his teammates after he made a diving catch for the final out in the third inning.

“When we got the lead, it was just relief off of our back,” Danford admitted. “Some of the kids came in here kind of star struck, but some not really, which surprised me. I remember when we came here my sophomore year it was like something I’ve never seen before. But now coming back it was easy, and when we got the lead I felt like we had it in the bag.”

An early lead is always a pitcher’s best friend, and that was the case for Mercer too. The junior southpaw was in control and hit his spots all afternoon.

“I knew that if we could just get one run I would hold them, but I just got off of the mound too soon,” Mercer said. “I missed just one spot and they cashed in. I just tried to put my team in the best position to win, and I did so for five-and-a-third innings, best I could.”

Williston threatened in the bottom of the fourth, but some base running mistakes disrupted that rally. Rey and Neal both walked, but a bunt attempt was popped straight up in the air to the catcher. The Devils attempted to get things going on the base paths, but Sneads responded by catching two base runners to end the inning.

The Pirates chased Seay in the top of the sixth inning, after Tye Justin drew a lead-off walk. Danford was then hit by a pitch to push Justin into scoring position. But this time it was Williston that responded defensively, as Justin got caught in a rundown and tagged out. With two outs, Mercer came through with a clutch base hit that doubled the lead, as he stayed back and drove through the ball to send an RBI single up the middle that allowed Danford to round third and slide safely across the plate.

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