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LCHS wins regional

MONTICELLO-The Lawrence County Cougars defeated St. Stanislaus8-2 Saturday to win the MHSAA Class 4A playoff regional, played atJimmie Davis Park. The Cougars roared to three straight wins in thetournament and advanced to the next round of the 4A playoffs, whichwill begin this Friday.

Joseph Evans provided Lawrence County with its third straightcomplete-game pitching effort. With Evans limiting St. Stanislausto 2 runs on 8 hits, Cougar hurlers allowed just 5 runs on 14 hitsin the 3 tourney games.

“It was a great weekend,” said second-year Lawrence County coachCory Keyes, whose Cougars improved to 27-3 on the season. “Wepitched well, defended fairly well, and got some clutch hits.

“Along with the satisfaction of winning it,” Keyes continued,”We just had a great time hosting this tournament, and the threefine teams that came to our place. We had great crowds, and greatbaseball atmosphere. We hope we can make it last a littlelonger.”

Along with the host Cougars and St. Stanislaus, Brookhaven andPoplarville were also in the Lawrence County regional.

Senior centerfielder Marty Ballard had a huge day for LawrenceCounty. He went 3-for-3, with all 3 hits coming with 2 out, and all3 driving in runs. His fifth-inning homer gave the Cougars aninsurmountable 8-2 lead, and ran his RBI total to 5 on the day.

“Marty has had a great season,” said long-time LCHS assistantCraig Davis. “Statistically, I’m sure he’s one of our top hitters.But it’s just uncanny how many 2-out, run-producing hits he’sgotten. He did it three straight times today.”

Along with Ballard, first baseman Nick Jackson and left fielderJohnathan Stephens also had homers for Lawrence County. Jackson’shomer came right after Ballard’s 2-run double in the first inning.The Cougars almost immediately had a 4-0 lead.

Stephens’ solo homer in the fifth, triggered a 2-out rally thatended with Ballard’s 2-run clout. Along with Ballard’s 3 hits,Stephens and Jackson each had 2 for Lawrence County. Taebyus Smithand Trent Hartzog also had hits.

St. Stanislaus got hits in 6 of the 7 innings, but Evansrepeatedly pitched out of trouble. The Rock-A-Chaws scored 2 runsin the third, and had a major opportunity to do damage in thefourth. Trailing 5-2, St. Stan’s inning started with a JamesAbraham double and a Nathan Kren single. With the tying run at theplate and none out, Evans quickly dispatched 3 straight Rock-A-Chawhitters. He allowed just 2 harmless 2-out singles after that.

“It didn’t seem to come easily for Joseph today,” Davis said,”but he’s such a great competitor. He just battled right throughit. Starting with that big fourth-inning jam, he retired 11 of thelast 13 hitters he faced.”

Tyler Henry, St. Stanislaus’ big senior right-hander, gave ithis best shot. Along with getting 2 hits, Henry, pitching on just 1day of rest, worked 4 and 2/3 competitive innings for theRock-A-Chaws. He had thrown a 7-inning complete game againstBrookhaven just 2 days earlier.

“Their kid gave it a good fight,” Keyes said. “He threw 145pitches against Brookhaven, and was obviously running on fumestoday. But he competed well enough to be fairly effective. My hat’soff to him.”

In the fifth inning, Henry was relieved by Chase Kleinpeter, whothrew a complete game against the Cougars on Friday. LCHS won thatgame 4-2.

St. Stanislaus, coached by Mark Logan, finished the season at22-10.