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Hunt's walk off secures series sweep over Porter

Mar. 28—HUNTSVILLE — After seven innings of shutout baseball, Huntsville and Porter needed one more inning to settle the score.

Hornet junior Colton Gilbert and Porter's Joseph Perillo were locked in a heated battle on the mound with two separate approaches. Gilbert, who threw 84 total pitches, relied on throwing strikes over the plate and giving his defense a chance to work. Perillo threw heat and struck out 14 Hornet batters.

But with a high pitch count, the Spartans had to move to Jose Medina for the eighth after the Hornets faced him Tuesday night in their epic comeback. Medina got two outs but a walk and a catcher interference loaded the bases. Senior Nolan Hunt shot the fourth pitch through the left side for the walk-off 1-0 win.

"It was a great win. We never gave up. I want to point out the defense. I don't know how many diving plays we had tonight, it was amazing," Gilbert said. "As a pitcher, it gives me 100% confidence that if I miss a pitch I have seven guys behind me that will put their bodies on the line."

Gilbert has been a utility man for the Hornets on the mound this season. He has made a handful of starts and has been the Huntsville Friday starter for the past two weeks. While he doesn't have quite the velocity of some pitchers the Hornets see, he can move the ball around.

"It is what he does. We have used him in different capacities over his three years in the program. Even this year we started him early and some in the pen. The thing about him is he doesn't get caught up in anything. He just does what he can do and knows his limitations," Huntsville head coach Justin Jennings said.

Against the Spartans, Gilbert tossed 63 strikes and allowed four hits. But the key for him is the seven guys behind him that are capable of making big plays. Junior outfielder Carson Woods made a diving play.

But that wasn't the only play. Gilbert faced 28 Spartans from the mound but let his defense work. Gilbert induced 11 outs in the air and another nine on the ground — one being a double play.

While they made an error, the defense for Huntsville was solid for all 24 outs they needed to get the win.

"It's amazing. It's crazy what they did tonight. Carson diving in right field and they covered a whole lot of ground," Gilbert said. "Holden can make any play you can think of, it's awesome."

Offensively, the Hornets were coming off a big game on Tuesday against Porter. Huntsville grabbed six runs in the top of the seventh inning to complete a comeback. The Hornets rallied for five hits in the frame and 10 total in the game.

With Perillo on the mound, Porter looked unstoppable and proved he was. Perillo threw seven innings for shut-out baseball and faced 25 Hornet batters.

But after retiring the side on strikes after the first inning, Huntsville played into it. Perillo threw 12 pitches in the first inning and followed that up with another 12-pitch inning to bring his count up.

In the third inning, Huntsville started to take more pitches. Brian Parker Jr. drew a six-pitch walk, Josh Stanley grabbed a four-pitch walk and all of a sudden the pitch count was nearing 50 pitches.

"You hate to talk about getting a guy out of the game but that was our mindset. We knew with as many strikeouts as he had, his count was going to get up. We just wanted to keep putting up zeros and I like our bullpen better. We knew if we got in a situation like that, we would be OK. They brought in the guy we faced the other night so we knew what we would get. We just had some good ABs."

While it took all seven innings to get him out of the game, the pitch count limit of 110 Porter had to make a move.

Porter coach Wayne Ralph went with Jose Medina on the mound for the second time this week and Huntsville capitalized.

On Tuesday, the Hornets took him for 2/3rd innings and gave up one hit and three runs. With him back in the game the Hornets took charge.

To open up the bottom of the eighth, Van Brady lined a pitch up the middle for a single. With one out, Stanley drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second. Three pitches later Gage Dorris struck the catcher's mitt and was awarded first base on the interference to load it up with one out.

Sophomore slugger Noah Neito headed to the box with an opportunity to end it. After taking a ball, he connected with the ball and shot it straight into the air. The in-field fly rule was enacted and now there were two outs.

Senior Nolan Hunt was due up after going 0-3 against Perillo. Hunt worked a 2-0 count before swinging at the third pitch. Then, he shot the ball through the left side to score Christian Winston from third to secure the walk-off win.

Hunt ended up at the bottom of the dog pile for the first time in his Huntsville career.

"I was struggling and I couldn't see the ball earlier in the game. They put in the guy we faced Tuesday and I got a fastball," Hunt said. "In my four years of high school baseball, I've never had a moment like that, if we're gonna be honest."

For a lot of polls, Porter was selected to be at the top of the district in a lot of people's eyes and now they sit in the fourth place spot after the Hornets sweep.

The Spartans hold a 3-4 record with their other loss coming from Lufkin before series play.

Huntsville put themselves in a strong spot with their 4-3 record and the leg up on Porter for the final standings.

But the key now will be finishing out the season strong after a few days off for the Easter holiday.

"The Tuesday win was big for us. Coach was talking about the sweep, we had already won the series but to go into the Easter weekend and next week with a win. We did what we could and we got it done," Gilbert said.

Huntsville will return to action on Tuesday with a road trip to Lufkin. The Hornets will try to avenge a 4-3 extra innings loss to the Panthers earlier this year.

The two squads are set to face off at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Lufkin.