Red Devils miss out on playoffs
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
VINA – Vina's bid for a third straight playoff appearance ended in disastrous fashion on Thursday as the Red Devils committed eight errors in a 20-3 loss to Marion County.
Vina (15-6, 2-4 Class 1A, Area 13) would have clinched a playoff berth with a win, but instead it will be the Red Raiders (4-2 area) traveling to face Athens Bible in a first-round game on Tuesday.
"We feel like we're good enough to be a playoff team, but so is Marion County," Vina coach Greg Hamilton said. "That's the problem you face in a tough area like ours. When you've got Hackleburg, Marion County and Vina, there's going to be a pretty good team sitting at home. Unfortunately, this time it's us."
The Red Devils defeated Marion County 19-7 on April 8, but Thursday's game got out of hand quickly.
Vina made five errors in the top of the first inning, leading to nine unearned runs as Marion County built a 12-0 lead.
The Red Raiders scored all 12 runs with two outs. After Vina starter Kyle Green retired two of the first three batters, the next 13 men reached base.
"Defensively, we were atrocious in the first inning," Hamilton said. "They did a good job of putting the bat on the ball, and we just didn't make the plays. They scored five runs before they ever got a hit. When something like that happens, it just snowballs on you.
"It was the exact reversal of what happened when we played them at their place. We tried every trick in the book to stop it. We called timeout, we changed pitchers. Nothing worked."
The Red Devils scored one run in the bottom of the first on consecutive singles by Max Weeks, Corey Scott, Green and Rodney Barnes. The bases were still loaded with one out when Luke Childers lined into an inning-ending double play.
"If that ball gets through, it's 12-4 and there's still only one out," Hamilton said. "You never know. But that's kind of the way things went for us all day."
Vina added two more runs in the third. Weeks singled, stole second and scored on a hit by Scott, and courtesy runner Blake Thorn stole second and later scored on an error to make it 12-3.
Marion County put the game away with seven runs in the top of the fourth. The Red Raiders finished with 10 hits, compared to eight for Vina.
Thursday's loss marked the final game at Vina for seniors Scott, Barnes, Childers and Preston Barksdale.
This year's senior class finished with a three-year total of 54 wins and helped the Red Devils make their first two playoff appearances in a decade.
"These seniors have done more for me than I could ever hope to do for them," Hamilton said. "We have a good baseball program here, and it's because of these kids. I hate that it had to end this way for them, but they've definitely left their mark."
Hamilton said missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003 was tough for his team to swallow.
"You can ask any of these kids, and they'll tell you the same thing," he said. "It doesn't matter if you win 30 games, 20 games, or whatever. If you don't make the playoffs, it's a disappointing season. That's where our program is at this point.
"We've got a lot of guys coming back next year, and we'll do everything in our power to get back to the playoffs."