Carter Phillips

East Union pitcher Carter Phillips gets first aid treatment after being struck in the head by a line drive against Taylorsville in Wednesday's Game 1. Phillips, who was not seriously injured, returned to pitch on Friday.

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Carter Phillips has been through far worse than what happened to him at Trustmark Park last Wednesday.

Nine years ago, he was in a bad car wreck with his mother and siblings. Phillips escaped unscathed, but his younger brother Harris died from his injuries.

Phillips, the oldest of six, helped pull his family from the wreckage.

“As much as you hate that, you look back on it and think that through that, God said, 'This is where you need to step up and be a leader.' I think that’s helped me not only in baseball, but in other things,” Phillips said.

So when the East Union senior pitcher was hit flush on his left ear by a baseball last week, that setback was a relative cakewalk. It was the first inning of Game 1 in the Class 2A championship series, and Taylorsville’s Ty Keyes smacked a one-hopper that Phillips couldn’t avoid.

He hit the ground and was down for several minutes.

“I remember crying coming off the field and didn’t really have any pain,” he said. “It was just I couldn’t be out there pitching the game that I knew I was supposed to be and being able to play with my teammates.”

After a trip to the hospital, it was determined that Phillips did not have a concussion, nor did he suffer any damage to his ear drum. He had a laceration in his ear canal as well as on the outside of his ear.

He’s lucky the ball didn’t strike him on the temple.

“An inch or so higher and we’d have a whole different story,” Phillips said. "The doctors told us that’s the most minimal damage that you can do from where it hit you.”

The left-hander was determined to get back to his team for Friday’s Game 2. Not only did he come back, he pitched the final two innings.

Phillips said it was “surreal” being back on the mound so soon after such a huge scare. Coach Chris Basil hugged him after summoning him from the bullpen.

“That’s more important to me than anything, for a young man of his character to be able to receive the blessings from God to be able to come back out here,” Basil said. “That meant more to me than anything.”

Keyes was as happy as anyone to see Phillips back on the mound. He sent Phillips a text on Wednesday apologizing.

“He told me, ‘You just hit the ball. You did what you were supposed to do,’” Keyes said.

Taylorsville swept East Union to win the title. Phillips was fighting back tears during the trophy presentation, but he wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

He’s glad he got to pitch one more time, and he wasn’t scared despite what had happened two days prior.

“I felt at peace that whatever’s going to happen, God’s got it in control. I just had the peace that if He allows me to go back out there and play a game, then He allows me to go out there. And if not, then I’m not.”

Brad Locke is senior sports writer for the Daily Journal. Contact him on Twitter @bradlocke or via email at brad.locke@journalinc.com.

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