Eight-run lead just enough to hold off pesky Eagles
No lead is ever big enough in baseball, but for South Central on Monday, eight was enough.
The Rebels benefited from a rare rough outing by Lanesville’s Walker Horton to build a 6-0 first inning lead. The lead stretched to 8-0 before Lanesville made a steady come back bid. The rally hit a skid in the sixth inning when Chip Hockenbury pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, eventually leading to a 9-6 South Central win in Elizabeth.
‘Seems like every game with Lanesville comes down to the end,’ said South Central coach Nick Tremain. ‘It is one of those good rivalries that are always fun games to be involved in.’
In the bottom of the first, Horton ran into control problems, walking three of the first four batters he faced. Micah Decker did damage with his bat with the bases loaded, drilling a three-run double to right center. Wesley Hedden followed with a double the same direction, plating Decker.
Lanesville (5-6) coach Sean Smith pulled Horton for center fielder Jordan Sizemore, who found a solid rhythm on the hill. Sizemore gave up an RBI double to Adam McKnight before pitching out of a dreadful six-run first inning.
‘We talked about before the game not swinging at pitches above our hands, getting the ball when it’s down in the zone,’ Tremain said. ‘Our guys really focused on that. They did a good job with it in every at bat.’
South Central (6-3) added a pair of runs in the third inning on a trio of singles. Hockenbury plated a run with a single, then Travis Higdon sent home a run with a sacrifice fly.
The tide turned in the fourth inning when Hockenbury ran into control problems of his own. He hit the first two batters, eventually leading to Lanesville runs. Cody Hussung scored the first with a sac fly to start the two-run inning.
Cutting into the Rebels’ lead, the Eagles added two more runs in the fourth. Sizemore led off with a single. He scored on a Kenton Acton single to left. Then with two outs, Collin McCulloch plated the second run of the inning with a single, cutting the Rebels’ lead to 8-4.
South Central added an insurance run in the fifth with an RBI single off the bat of Elliot Thompson.
In the sixth inning, Lanesville came away with one run despite loading the bases. Sizemore scored the lone run on a one-out double. Cameron Teeter then grounded out to third, forcing runners to hold at second and third. Tremain then intentionally walked Acton, loading the bases. Hockenbury got the next batter to ground out for a key third out.
‘I told (Hockenbury) we needed a strikeout, but we got a ground ball to third, which held the runner,’ Tremain said. ‘That kept us from pitching to Acton, and we were going to take our chances with the next guy. He hit it hard, luckily right at somebody. That was probably the ball game there.’
Both teams hit the ball well, combining for 24 hits, South Central with 14 and Lanesville 10.
‘We’ve been hitting the ball,’ Smith said. ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do at the plate, but we’re making progress. We’ve seen a lot of good things out of these guys, especially today being down eight and battling back. We’re moving in the right direction. Hopefully by the end of the season, we’ll be where we need to be.’
Tremain said the Rebels have worked hard lately on shortening their swings and hitting with two strikes, both of which he saw good signs of in the game.
Hockenbury didn’t have his usual command in the late innings but managed to pick up his fifth win, running his record to a perfect 5-0. He struck out six, walked four and hit two batters.
‘Chip didn’t have command of his off-speed pitches, which is odd for him,’ Tremain said. ‘He had to battle all day. When they started to put the bat on the ball, he had to really dig down. I was really proud of the way he handled the adversity for the first time this year.’
Sizemore has been a pleasant surprise for Smith on the hill for Lanesville this season. The team is looking for a consistent No. 2 pitcher behind Acton, a spot Sizemore and Horton are among those battling for it.
‘He has been a real blessing this year,’ Smith said of Sizemore’s pitching. ‘We weren’t counting on him to pitch much, especially with his strength in center field, using his arm up. We knew he could pitch; we just didn’t know he’d fare at this level.’
Sizemore struck out three and walked three. Horton took the loss.
‘Horton has been throwing good all year, it just wasn’t his day,’ Smith said. ‘If he came out and threw like he has been all year, it would have been a totally different ball game.’