Hammond coach Chris Braciszewski has preached to anyone that would listen - no moment is too big for freshman Tucker Toman.
In case there is doubt remaining, Toman took care of that Tuesday night with the Skyhawks season on the line. Toman’s fifth inning grand slam broke a tie and Hammond had enough at the end to hold on for a 12-11 victory to even the best-of-three Class 3A SCISA state championship series against Ben Lippen at a game apiece.
The decisive third game with be Thursday night, starting at 7 pm at the Blowfish Stadium in Lexington.
“Tucker is a big-game guy,” Braciszewski said. “No moment is too big for him, that’s the impressive thing about him. He plays calm and collected no matter what the situation is. He was waiting on the guy to leave one up over the plate and he got a good swing on it.”
Toman, a freshman that is the son of former USC assistant and current Middle Tennessee coach Jim Toman, finished 3-for-5 with a double and five RBIs. It was Toman’s third grand slam of the playoffs.
“He left it up,” the Oregon commit said. “I had two strikes but found a way to make him pay. I just knew we were going to win that game after that.”
Hammond had to quickly forget about the first game of the series, a 12-2 loss on Monday night at Ben Lippen. Braciszewski talked to his team about the situation Monday night and again on Tuesday but told them they had to put that in the past.
“(Monday) night we could think about it but not dwell on it,” he said. “Tonight, we got the win to even the series, but we can’t dwell on that. We can enjoy tonight but just like we couldn’t get down after Monday night, we have to forget it. We’ve done a good job to get it to game three. I’m really proud of them.”
Ben Lippen had taken a 5-4 lead in the top half of the fifth. Tripp Williams had an RBI double and Madison Matthews added a sacrifice fly to help them rally from a 4-3 deficit.
Hammond tied it on Harris Jackson’s RBI single before back-to-back walks loaded the bases for Toman. The left-handed hitter then hit a towering shot deep over the wall in right field to extend the lead to 9-5. The Skyhawks offense was aided by four Ben Lippen errors, six walks, and three hit batters.
The Skyhawks added to that lead in the sixth. Reece Holbrook, son of former South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook, delivered a two-run triple before Toman doubled the opposite way for his fifth RBI of the night.
But it was all needed. The Falcons rallied for six runs in the top of the seventh with the key blow being a grand slam from Williams. Ben Lippen left the bases loaded in the sixth without scoring. The Falcons pounded out 12 hits. Williams was 3-for-5 with five RBI.
“Tip of the cap to them for not giving up,” Braciszewski said. “That’s an easy time to just quit and say we’ll go to game three, but they wanted it now. That was a heck of a comeback, but we found a way to get that final out.”
WP: Graham Wilson. LP: Tripp Williams. Hitters: H – Tucker Toman 3-5, 2B, HR, 5 RBI; Reece Holbrook 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Harris Jackson 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. BL – Tripp Williams 3-5, 2B, HR, 5 RBI; RJ Samellas 2-4; Will Taylor 2-4; Grant McElveen 2-4.