By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — The way that got away is elusive no longer.
The Pendleton Heights tennis team reversed an earlier 4-1 loss to Frankton by defeating the Eagles by that same score in the championship match of the Madison County Tournament here Friday afternoon.
The Arabians wanted that title a year ago but Alexandria brought home the hardware. PH rallied to win the sectional to take much of the sting from the county loss.
Arabians coach Royce Hammel, while still in the midst of enjoying his team's title win, said, "That probably just makes it tougher on us in the sectional."
There were a pair of three-set matches Friday and both of them went to PH as the match lasted past the 2.5 hour mark.
The final match off the court was at No. 2 singles where Zach Howe got past Frankton's Aaron Korn 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. Even though by the final few games of the third set the title belonged to Pendleton Heights, it wasn't apparent in the play of those two warriors.
At No. 2 doubles, PH's Noah Fawcett and J.D. Thompson staged their own third-set rally, defeating Jeff Biddle and Brady Ashton 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. The Arabians duo got off to a 3-0 lead in the third set and made it hold up.
At No. 1 doubles, the PH pair of Sam McKinney and Mitch Staley won the first set 7-5, but trailed in the second set 5-2.
"I told the guys at 5-2 that I didn't want to have to open another can of balls," said Hammel. "They told me they didn't want me to have to either."
Many teams might have coated to a loss in that set and conserved energy for a big push in the third set. Not this Arabian team as they won the next five points for another 7-5 set and match triumph.
At No. 1 singles Ben Augsberger defeated Frankton's Lucas Bolt 6-1, 6-4.
Frankton's lone point came at No. 3 singles where Conner Bates remained unbeaten with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Evan Crooks.
"We played well at Lapel (on Wednesday in the first round of the tournament," said Eagles coach Brett Sanders. "But compared to the next day against Anderson or tonight against Pendleton, we didn't play that well. Hopefully by the end of the season we will be able to play three high quality matches in a row. But we're nowhere near ready to do that right now."
How did Hammel convince his players that they could turn around a 4-1 loss in just two weeks?
"I had to convince them that when we lost to them the first time it was a fluke," said Hammel. "I didn't go into the match confident by any means. But our guys knew we didn't play our best match the first time so I liked our chances to be able to come in here and win. But I never would have thought it would be 4-1. This is sweet."