SLATER

Commerce's Will Slater sprints to first base during a recent game. 

After a week-long stay in Florida, the Commerce baseball team might have had a little lag from the road but was sharp enough late to salvage a region win Monday.

Matt Martin drew a final-inning, bases-loaded walk to plate the winning run in the Tigers’ 2-1 victory over region opponent Towns County April 5 at home.

The Tigers, ranked No. 7 in Class A-Public, trailed 1-0 for most of the night before tying the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with a Colin Welch single which scored Martin.

“We came out very lethargic and not ready to go (Monday)” said Commerce coach Steve Cotrell, whose team played three games in Florida last week. “I am not sure if we were still tired from the trip or if we have just been off a routine for a while ... The positive is that we did find a way to turn it up a notch and find some energy to get the job done. Hopefully, that will get us back on track and get us going offensively.”

Commerce (15-6, 10-1 Region 8-A Public) finished with five hits, led by Gray Holbrook, who went 3-for-3 and scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on Martin’s walk.

The Tigers welcomed Welch back to the lineup Monday after he had injured his finger taking ground balls during the first day of the Florida trip. Cotrell called Welch’s game-tying RBI “huge,” but also pointed walks Martin drew in the sixth and seventh innings as well as sacrifice outs from Will Slater and Coleson Smith to move runners over in the win.

On the mound, Slater fired a complete-game three-hitter, striking out 10 batters. He allowed one an earned run and four walks.

“Slater had to battle early on because he was kind of erratic,” Cotrell said. “Once he settled down, he done a great job. Great team win.”

This marked Commerce’s first region game since a 10-1 victory March 23 at Towns County. With the win, the Tigers remained in a first-place tie with Social Circle in Region 8-A Public.

The victory also snapped a three-game losing streak, of which all three loses came during the team’s Florida trip which coincided with Commerce High School’s spring break.

The Tigers fell to McKeel Academy 10-0 on March 29, Lake Region 10-0 on March 30 and Sebring 16-1 on April 1.

In its loss to McKeel, Wildcat starting pitcher Breton Cusic threw an abbreviated perfect game. McKeel opened with five runs over the first two innings and closed the game out early with five more runs over the course of the fourth and fifth innings.

The Tigers were then limited to three base runners and were no-hit in their 10-0, five-inning loss to Lake Region, which put up seven-second inning runs.

Against Sebring, Commerce finished with four hits, led by Holbrook who was 2-for-2 and drove in the Tigers’ lone run of the road trip.

Sebring pounded out 14 hits and blew the game open with a 10-run third inning.

“The teams down in Florida were good teams, but I think the kids along with the coaches would agree that was not our best baseball,” Cotrell said, adding that that assessment was “an understatement.”

While the coach said the players and their families enjoyed their time together in the sunny location and warm weather, “we just didn't have the mindset of a business trip as well,” he added.

“The Florida trip definitely exposed some weaknesses that we need to work on or put more emphasis on during practice time,” Cotrell said.

Commerce will now host Class AAA No. 10-ranked Franklin County Wednesday (April 7, 5:30 p.m.). The Lions are off to an 18-3 start.

“Franklin County will definitely be a challenge for us,” Cotrell said. “I think our kids are looking forward to the game. It will be a measuring stick to see if we have matured and learned from our trip.”

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