Minden senior Hunter Wilkes went to the plate in search of a base hit, but he found much, much more.
The senior third-baseman made up for a rocky outing on the mound by blasting an opposite-field home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Tuesday night at Griffith Stadium to down Southwood 5-4.
Minden (1-0) had trailed most of the night before finally coming alive in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead over the Cowboys. Southwood was able to strike for one run in the top of the seventh to tie the score at 4-all, sending the game into extras after the Tide came up empty in the seventh.
Minden junior John Volentine (1-0), who pitched well in a long relief appearance, sat down Southwood in order in the top of the eight, setting the stage for Wilke’s memorable mash.
“I just wanted to get on base, hit something to the right side,” Wilkes said. “He gave me the pitch to hit; I don’t know, I can’t believe it.”
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Minden got things started with a Volentine bunt single and a Jaryn Lindsay double down the left field line, placing runners at second and third. Volentine came around to score on a sac fly by Breylan Kemp.
Cameron Dollar, who had an outstanding double play in the fifth-inning on a fly ball that saw him nail a runner at the plate, came up next and skied a ball to third base. Fortunately for Minden, the Southwood third baseman lost track of the ball and it fell to the ground.
Minden’s Jalien Moore made it hurt with a double to right center scoring Lindsay, then Wilkes singled up the middle to score both Dollar and Moore, putting Minden in front 4-3 and setting the stage for his late-inning heroics.
It was the first regular season win as head coach for Minden’s Ben Bower who has taken over for Dean Francis, now the Minden High Athletic Director.
While Bower was pleased to win, he knows his Tiders have better baseball in them than what they showed Tuesday.
“We let them stay in it, and give (Southwood) credit because they played well,” Bower said. “We continued to do crazy stuff. When the pressure is on, we made some decisions we wouldn’t normally make.
“John Volentine was excellent. We made some blunders defensively behind Hunter (Wilkes), and he didn’t have command of all three pitches. I wasn’t going to leave him out there down 3 runs, and thank God I didn’t because it worked out.”
As for getting his and the team’s first win out of the way?
“It feels good,” Bower said. ”Glad to get that out of the way, so we can look forward to some better baseball, because we’re better than what we showed.”
Wilkes finished 3-4 with 3 RBIs to lead Minden, followed by Moore who went 1-4 with a double and RBI. Lindsay doubled for Minden, while Rodney Johnson and Connor Davis added singles to round out the offense.
Wilkes pitched the first 3 innings, giving up 3 hits and striking out two batters before giving way to Volentine for the final 5 innings; he struck out three batters and allowed just one hit and one run.
Minden is scheduled to be back in action Thursday in the North DeSoto tournament, pending weather. The Tide will take on Bossier in Bossier Feb. 27 before returning to Griffith Stadium Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. against the Byrd Yellow Jackets.