Commerce's Coy Argo throws across the diamond in the Tigers' 17-10 Tuesday (May 10) win in Game 2 of their quarterfinals doubleheader with ECI. The teams will play a decisive Game 3 Wednesday (May 11) at 2 p.m.

Commerce didn’t enjoy its best day of baseball according to its head coach, but nevertheless stands one win away from the program’s first Final Four berth in 26 years.

The Tigers (25-12) split a Tuesday (May 10) quarterfinals doubleheader with visiting Emmanuel County Institute (19-11), dropping the first game 4-2 and then winning a 17-10 slugfest in the nightcap. The teams will play a decisive Game 3 Wednesday (May 11, 2 p.m.) for a spot in the Class A-Public semifinals. Commerce hasn’t advanced to the Final Four since 1996.

“That’s the two worst baseball games we’ve played all year to be honest,” Tiger coach Steve Cotrell said. “And when I say that, it’s not to bash the kids. It’s just our mindset was not right at practice yesterday. My biggest fear, with these kids never being here, being in this situation, they start trying to look ahead, and we just had that nonchalant (attitude).”

With the season now on the line in Game 3, Cotrell said, “hopefully, we’ll show up.”

“We should, but at the same time, we’ve got to come with the mindset like we did last week,” the coach said, referring to his team’s second-round series win over Irwin County.

Commerce forced a Game 3 by taking control of Game 2 over the last four frames.

The Tigers trailed 9-6 in the fourth inning — having surrendered six third-inning runs — before plating five runs in the fourth inning and never trailing again.

“Not taking anything away from their fight either, but shouldn’t have given up that big inning,” Cotrell said. “We should have run-ruled them in five innings.”

Hudson Thomason came on in relief and worked 4 2/3 innings to get the Tigers to the finish line after Commerce pitching gave up nine runs during the first 2 1/3 innings.

“That was big,” Cotrell said. “He stepped up. We needed somebody to step up and throw strikes and kind of calm the storm a little bit.”

At the plate, Landon Bunn went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the nightcap, blasting a two-run home run in the third that gave Commerce a brief 6-3 lead. Ryan Cooper went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Cooper tagged a two-run home run in the top of the fifth — striking a tin roof beyond the left centerfield wall — as part of a three-run inning for the Tigers. Cohen Thompson also enjoyed a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

In Game 1, ECI’s Joseph Stewart broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI single to centerfield. An error two batters later brought home an ECI insurance run.

Reliever Bryce Kearson then worked a perfect bottom half of the inning to close out the Bulldogs’ 4-2 win.

ECI led 2-0 for most of Game 1 after starting pitcher Lawson Mercer bashed a towering two-run home run in the first inning.

The score remained the same until the bottom of the six when Commerce’s Brayton Purcell bounced an RBI single up the middle. Thomason later scored the tying run on an ECI defensive miscue.

In the loss, Commerce got a complete-game performance from Jaxon Foster, who allowed four runs on four hits, while striking out five batters and not issuing any walks.

Though the Tigers did not earn a sweep on Tuesday, it was a historical night for the program in one respect as they tied the record for wins in a season with 25.


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