LCHS rally sinks Florence

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 13, 2006

FLORENCE — The Lawrence County Cougars erupted for 9 runs inthe top of the seventh to snatch a 13-9 victory over Florence, inthe opening game of a Division 6-4A baseball doubleheader Fridaynight. With considerably less drama, the visiting Cougars also wonthe second game, 11-3.

With the doubleheader sweep, Coach Cory Keyes saw his LCHSCougars improve their record to 9-1 overall, and 5-1 in Division6-4A play. Lawrence County defeated Florence 6-1 in the opener ofthe 3-game series Tuesday night in Monticello. Florence fell to 4-5overall, and 2-4 in the division.

Lawrence County, the reigning division champion, found itself ina tough spot in the first game of the doubleheader. Florence taggedCougar starter Joseph Evans for 13 hits in building up a 9-4 leadthrough 6 innings. Lawrence County could see its lofty spot in thedivision standings slipping away.

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“We were in trouble,” Keyes said, “but we didn’t really doanything wrong to get in that position. Florence just did a greatjob of swinging the sticks. We always preach to our guys, though,to work hard the whole 7 innings, and we were finally able to breakthrough in the seventh tonight. That was quite an inning, quite awin.”

The top of the seventh started with a single by JohnathanStephens. That was followed by a Taebyus Smith homer, which cut theFlorence lead to 9-6. After a groundout, Trent Hartzog walked, andJake Russell hit a line drive single that barely grazed the secondbaseman’s glove.

“It’s a game of inches,” Keyes said. “If the second baseman hadcaught that ball, it might have been a game-ending doubleplay.”

After a walk to Nick Jackson loaded the bases, Cougar catcherZachary Summers, batting in the ninth spot, came through with oneof the biggest hits of his high school career. Summers laced a 1-2curveball from Florence reliever Patrick Creel into left field,driving in 2 runs and cutting the Eagle lead to 9-8.

“Every at-bat of the inning was huge,” said long-time LawrenceCounty assistant Craig Davis, who is also Summers’ stepfather, “butZachary’s was really huge. We went from down 9-6, hoping we had ashot at the game, to down 9-8, with runners on second and third,knowing we had a shot at the game. Then Marty came through with hisbig hit.”

An intentional walk to Joseph Evans loaded the bases, bringingup Marty Ballard. Ballard, one of Lawrence County’s top hitters,had struggled through a miserable night. He was 0-for-4, with 3strikeouts, when he blasted a bases-loaded double to the base ofthe center field wall. That hit gave the Cougars a most-improbablelead.

“Marty is a good hitter,” Davis said, “but he was having one ofthose nights. For him to come through in that situation, on an 0-2pitch no less, was really something.”

Lawrence County continued to add runs. Stephens had a sacrificefly, and Hartzog and Russell finished the rally with singles.

Florence got the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventhagainst Ballard, who relieved Cougar starter Joseph Evans in thesixth, but Russell came in to throw 1 pitch and earn his secondsave of the season. Ballard worked 1 inning and got the win. Evanspitched 5 and 2/3 innings.

Evans led off the game with a homer, and Nick Jackson singledhome Russell in the second, to give Lawrence County an early 2-0lead. But Florence found the range against Evans in the bottom ofthe second, rallying for 4 runs on 4 hits.

Trent Hartzog singled home a Lawrence County run in the top ofthe fifth, but Florence got that run right back in the bottom ofthe inning. The suddenly-sizzling Jackson blasted a solo homer inthe top of the sixth, but Florence pinned 4 runs and 6 hits onEvans in the bottom of the inning, seemingly putting the game away.That set up the Cougars’ dramatic rally.

Right-hander Hunter Thompson worked 6 and1/3 solid innings forFlorence. Lefthander Creel took the loss in relief.

Ten players had multiple hits in the game, 5 players from eachteam.

Lawrence Co. 11, Florence 3

The second game wasn’t nearly as dramatic. LCHS junior TrentHartzog changed speeds effectively in slowing down the Florencehitting attack. In 7 inning, Hartzog allowed 6 hits, walked 2, andstruck out 4.

Third baseman Jay Sandifer accounted for the first Florence runwith a third-inning solo homer. The other 2 Eagle runs came in thebottom of the seventh, after a dropped fly ball should have endedthe game.

“Trent did a good job,” Keyes said. “He really had a changeupworking, and he was throwing strikes, making them earn what theygot.”

Keyes also praised the defensive efforts of rightfielder TaebyusSmith and third baseman Mackenzie Woods, who each handled multipleplays in the game.

“Mackenzie got all banged up in the first game,” Keyes said,”and we didn’t even know if he could play at all. And Taebyus got alot of action in right. Florence really hits well to the oppositefield, and they gave him a workout, but he made some goodplays.”

Offensively, Hartzog and first baseman Nick Jackson led the wayfor the Cougars. Each had 3 hits. Each had RBI hits in the second,which gave Lawrence County an early lead.

In the fourth, Joseph Evans connected on a 2-run homer, cappinga 3-run rally. Hartzog doubled home Stephens in the fifth. LCHSlargely put the game away with 3 in the sixth, taking advantage ofFlorence control problems. Taebyus Smith had a run-scoring hit inthe inning. The Cougars’ added 2 more in the seventh, as Hartzogand Jackson again had hits.