Break on through

Wildcats making strides, gaining confidence in loaded district

Bolton pitcher Malik Herndon faced Millington last week in a doubleheader.

Bolton senior pitcher Malik Herndon faced Millington last week in a doubleheader. Herndon also got the win Friday against Ripley. The Wildcats won 9-2 and are now 18-8 on the season.
Photo by Thomas Sellers Jr.

Pitching can win a baseball game. Then sometimes it takes good discipline at the plate to overcome your opponent.

The Bolton Wildcats proved both of these theories on Tax Day 2014 in a doubleheader with District 14-3A rival Millington Central. With rain postponing Monday's game between the teams, that Trojans and Wildcats hooked up for two games at Bolton Wildcat Field with the squads taking turns as the home team.

In the first game, Bolton was the home team and used a 17-strikeout performance from John Sparks to outlast the Trojans 6-0. Despite a complete-game effort from Trojan starter Payton Wiginton, the Wildcats benefited from one big inning to earn the first-game victory.

After a break in action, it was time for the second game of the doubleheader. After one inning the teams were deadlocked at 1-1. But a four-run second inning highlighted by an Austin Looker two-run single helped Bolton win 9-1.

“It's always good to have a hot bat,” Bolton Head Coach Chris Godwin said. “Austin has been a good player for us since his freshman year. He's a four-year starter. We hate to see him leave after this year. He's a good player and good kid. He always seems to come through when we need him.”

Looker came up big again in the fourth inning this time with a double. The extra-base hit drove in another pair of Wildcats to make the score 7-1. Bolton added two more runs in the fifth inning.

It was a double steal called by Godwin in the first inning that allowed Sparks to score the first run of the game. Millington tied the contest at 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning when Carter Hawkins drove in Wiginton with a sacrifice fly.

In the top of the second inning the Wildcats seized control of the game taking advantage of Trojan errors and base on balls.

“I don't know what it is,” Millington Head Coach Billy Davis acknowledged. “It could be a lack of focus or a lack of mental wherewithall to know what to do with the baseball. It seems the baseball finds the guy who is less prepared to make the play. Then we let it snowball out of control. Especially in that four-run inning. We dropped two pop flies. We had a couple of walks there.”

Godwin said his players exercised discipline at the plate leading to the walks.

“Our guys do a good job of going up to plate looking for a good pitch to hit,” he noted. “That's what we talk about all the time. We talk about it before the game, 'Go up there and wait to get a good pitch. Don't just go up there swing.' That made the difference tonight, we went up there and hit good pitches.”

Godwin said the sweep over the Trojans puts his team in control of its destiny when it comes to the upcoming district tournament.

“It boosts our confidence for one knowing that we've still got Cordova tomorrow for a big district game,” he said. “Then we finish the district against Arlington. To go to Arlington with a chance to finish first would be big for us.”

While the Wildcats are in a good place mentally, Davis is trying to get his players focused on the road ahead toward the District 14-3A Tournament.

“It has a lot to do with confidence,” he said. “Right now our confidence is low and we're playing ball without any confidence. I think we've got the talent. It's just a matter of knowing we can compete with ball teams like Bartlett, Arlington and Bolton.

“If we can get over the hill, if we just get a quality win against one of these ball teams,” David concluded, “it will turn our whole season around. We're one step closer and we're getting there. We're real close to breaking through.”

Written by Thomas Seller Jr., sports editor. Contact him at (901) 872-2286 or via email to