By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The history books will record the night of April 12, 2021 as the game Munford Cougar Garrett McKinney threw a no-hitter against rivals the Brighton Cardinals.
But McKinney will be the first person to say it was a team effort that allowed him to make history and help Munford edge the Cardinals 2-1 in the District 13-3A showdown. Munford Skipper Scotty Yount said it took a combination of McKinney’s masterful performance on the mound, good glove work and crucial hits to beat Brighton.
“Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting, it’s not a secret formula,” he said. “You’ve got to throw strikes and make plays. You’ve got to have timely hits. That’s what happened tonight. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to them.
“Baskins threw a great game and they played good defense as well,” Yount added. “They hit some balls hard. We just made the plays. We made more plays. It was a really good high school baseball game.”
McKinney’s Brighton counterpart on the mound Monday night was Kaleb Baskins. Baskins would have been the victor on any other night with 4 strikeouts and giving up three hits.
But the hits recorded by the Cougars came at ideal times giving Munford the edge it needed. Through two and half innings, the only hit on the record came courtesy of Munford’s Shane Cox with an infield single.
In the bottom of the third, the Cougars took a 1-0 lead when Chris Swords smacked a base hit to score teammate Trent Suggs.
Munford nursed the one-run advantage behind the pitching of McKinney. The ace hurler threw 5 strikeouts with three coming in the fifth inning. After McKinney gave up a leadoff walk, he mowed down the next three Cardinal batters.
In the bottom of the fifth the Cougars got some insurance when Hunter Reed drove a single to the opposite field to drive in runner to make the tally 2-0.
“You can’t treat any play like it’s any other moment,” Yount said of his team’s philosophy. “Every play is big from pitch one to the last one. It’s just being where your feet are the entire game. That was something we struggled with when these guys were younger. We would be in ball games late but just couldn’t make the plays to win the one-run games.
“Now they understand and they’re a little more mature than they have been,’ he added. “It’s being where your feet are from pitch one to pitch 101. That’s how many Garrett threw tonight. We talk about focusing every pitch. It’s hard to be focused for two hour straight, so just be heads up in between.”
In the sixth inning the Cardinals went three up and three down. Then Brighton put together a rally in the seventh inning with Logan Rushing and Ben Lavelle drawing walks. After Baskins moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, Lucas Perkins drove home Rushing with a ground ball out.
But in appropriate fashion, McKinney ended the game with a strikeout. The final out of the game sent the Cougars into celebration of their pitcher’s accomplishment. But Yount warned his boys, enjoy this moment for a few minutes and get your minds ready for the rematch in less than 24 hours.
“We have a goal,” he concluded. “I don’t think I really need to motivate them. We’re going to enjoy this one for a little bit but we are going to be ready tomorrow night.”