Rebels close strong vs. Eagles
A pair of highlight-worthy plays with Nick Veith’s leather and three big offensive innings led Class A No. 5 South Central to a 10-2 victory Thursday over rival Lanesville in the first round of the Class A Lanesville Sectional.
It had to be a come-from-behind effort from the Rebels, who found themselves down 1-0 after the opening inning.
Lanesville got to South Central pitcher Jason Boston with three straight two-out hits. Jon Ferree, Justin Miller and Caleb Gresham accounted for the hits. Gresham’s hit in the hole behind second was pounced on by Veith to save a run.
Scoring the opening run was Ferree, when he trotted across the plate after Josh Barnes drew a walk.
Pitcher Brandon Blackerby held tough for the Eagles the first go-round of the South Central line-up.
The fourth inning, however, was when the Rebels made a move. Boston led off with a sky-high fly to deep center that resulted in a double. After a Spencer Ray walk, Parker Gabhart put down a sac bunt. He eventually reached when Blackerby’s throw attempt to cut down Boston at third misfired.
Two runs came across then a third came in when Jack Turner smacked a single, giving the Rebels a 3-1 lead.
Lanesville, still fired up in the dugout, looked to bounce back in the top of the fifth. They loaded the bases when Stephen Shaffer singled then Blackerby and Gresham were hit by pitches. Barnes followed with a sharp grounder, but Veith made another key play, diving to his right, then flipping to Cory Ray at second for the inning’s final out.
‘They were very tense, but they made the plays in the field,’ South Central coach Brian McKnight said. ‘That was the play of the game really. If the ball goes through, it probably ties the game, but we were able to get out of the inning still with the lead.’
‘The second baseman made two sweet plays on diving balls,’ Lanesville coach Rusty McCubbins said. ‘He got the one and nearly picked Jon Ferree off at third. He’s a heads-up ball player. We had our chances. At one point, we had more hits than they had, but we left a lot of runners on base.’
Pouncing on the momentum, South Central put four on the board in the fifth. Veith had an RBI single, while Gabhart had the big highlight. He lifted a ball toward the scoreboard in left that hit the yellow piping on the top of the fence and bounced into the creek. The homer was Gabhart’s first and gave South Central a commanding 7-1 edge.
‘You battle and battle, then Parker gets the big hit,’ McKnight said. ‘That’s the furthest ball he’s ever hit.’
Ten batters came to the plate in the fifth for the Rebels, but Lanesville managed to escape while the bases were full.
‘The fifth inning kind of got away from us,’ McCubbins said. ‘The good baseball teams take advantage when teams make mistakes like we did early. They did and do. They’ve had a nice year and, at this moment, is the team to beat.’
Lanesville added a run in the sixth when Tate Stilger came home after a balk.
South Central put three more up in the bottom of the sixth, aided by a Boston triple to center. He also earned the win on the hill, striking out nine in seven innings.
‘Boston did better,’ McKnight said. ‘He kept battling and didn’t give in to them. He was content letting them put the ball in play. Once he gets going, he’s fine.’
McCubbins said his team pitched well enough to win several games this year but struggled with consistently being mentally focused.
‘Our goal the next few years is to develop players that are intelligent, smart, take advantage of situations and, when a team makes a mistake, we have killer instinct,’ McCubbins said. ‘We pitched well enough to win but can’t get over the hump of eliminating mental mistakes.’
Miller finished with two hits for the Eagles, as did Shaffer.
For South Central, Boston reached base all four times with a double, triple and two walks. Turner and Gabhart had two hits each.
The Rebels advanced to face Rock Creek Academy in the semi-final.