On May 18, 2002, when Munford's current seniors were in kindergarten, Clint Arthur struck out 12 over 10 innings to lead Munford to a 4-2 win over nationally-ranked Germantown and into the state tournament for the first time in 11 years.
The performance by Munford senior pitcher Austin Cousar last night in Arlington was reminiscent of that. Cousar held a powerful Arlington squad to four hits over seven innings and worked around four Munford errors to lead his team to a dramatic 2-1 region semifinal win.
With the win, the Cougars (19-16) advance to the sectionals for the first time since 2004, the last year Munford made the state tournament. Munford travels to Dyer County Wednesday for the region title game. If the Cougars win, they will host Collierville or Houston Friday in a sectional game, the winner of which advances to state. With a loss the Cougars will travel to Houston or Collierville Friday for a sectional game.
"Tonight I felt like we had a good game plan and Austin Cousar executed it despite some routine plays that weren't made, and that's not like us," said first-year Munford coach Scotty Yount. "Austin has gotten better and better each time out and he was an absolute dude tonight. With him on the mound we feel like we can beat anybody."
With Munford leading 2-0 and Cousar trying to finish off Arlington, things got dicey in the bottom of the seventh.
After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Cousar issued a walk and two Munford errors trimmed the lead to 2-1 and put Arlington baserunners on second and third.
But Munford shortstop Corey Simmons snagged a line drive off the bat of Arlington clean-up hitter Luke Patterson to end the game and the celebration was on.
"Corey Simmons was pretty good too," Yount said. "Despite going 0 for 4, he squared up four balls had nothing to show for it. But defensively he was as solid as solid could be and had a web gem to end the game, picking up his teammates after a couple of errors."
Munford picked up an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Cousar led off the inning with a single and was bunted to second by Drew Drexler. Riley Bampfield hit a double to the left-center field gap to make the lead 2-0.
The Cougars' first run came in the fifth. Drexler led off the inning with a single and was brought home on a ground ball by Kyle Kelley.
Considering Arlington was ranked in the state's top 10 all year, beat Munford twice during the regular season and has been a regular at the state tournament the last several years, most baseball observers would probably consider Munford's win a pretty big upset.
"I've been saying all year these guys can play with anybody," Yount said. "What a night for Munford to eliminate one of the favorites to win it all. It may be surprising to most, but not me. I believe in these kids and our coaches, so the task now is to #WinWednesday."
Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.