Lawrence County rallies past Wayne County

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 24, 2009

MONTICELLO-The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the Wayne CountyWar Eagles 10-9 in MHSAA 4A playoff action Thursday night at JimmieDavis Park. It was the unlikeliest of victories for LawrenceCounty, which trailed 9-2 entering the bottom of the fifthinning.

The Cougars scored 8 times in their final three at-bats, finallywinning on Ford Johnson’s bases loaded walk with 1 out in thebottom of the seventh. The win gave Lawrence County a 1-0 advantagein the best-of-three series that will resume tonight at Waynesboro.Game time is 7 p.m.

“That was some win,” said fifth-year Cougar coach Cory Keyes.”Win or lose, I was awfully proud of the way our guys battled theirway back into the game. To come back and win it the way we didranks right up there with any win we’ve ever had.”

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Lawrence County had plenty of heroes on Thursday. Second basemanLane Stephens had 2 hits, both of which triggered Cougar scoringrallies. Pitcher Scott Votaw had the toughest pitching outing ofhis young career, but responded to that adversity by banging out 3hits, all of which drove in runs. Slugging first baseman ConnerOakes got the Cougars back into the game with one swing of the bat.His fifth-inning grand slam clanked off the left field foul pole,and turned a 9-3 blowout into a 9-7 nail-biter.

But perhaps the biggest Cougar hero on this night was JamieMcCardle. McCardle, a lanky right-hander, is probably better knownas a blocking tight end than as a baseball pitcher. On this night,however, with staff ace Votaw having a tough time of it, McCardlewas called on to pitch, and he came through.

McCardle entered with 1 out in the fifth inning. He worked 2 and2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, silencing Wayne County’spowerful bats and giving Lawrence County a chance to come back.McCardle struck out 2 and allowed 2 hits.

Lawrence County scored twice in the first, as Willie Buckleysingled, Votaw doubled, and Oakes singled. That 2-0 lead held upuntil the top of the third, when Wayne County roughed up Votaw for6 runs on 4 hits. Catcher Cody Stevens whacked a 3-run homer, anddesignated hitter Will Simmons followed with a 2-run shot, as theWar Eagles grabbed a 6-2 lead.

In the top of the fifth, Wayne County seemingly put the gameway, scoring 3 more runs. Stevens hit his second homer of thenight, a 2-run shot. It was 9-2 and the host Cougars were staringat a 1-0 series deficit.

With 1 out in the bottom of the fifth, the comeback began.Stephens started things with a single up the middle. Johnson thenreached on an error. Buckley laced a sharp single, loading thebases. At that point, Wayne County’s Blake McIlwain replacedstarting pitcher David Kennedy.

Votaw greeted McIlwain with a sharp single to left, cutting theWar Eagle lead to 9-3. That’s when Oakes, the Cougars’ leadinghitter, delivered his big blow, making it 9-7. It got even tighterone batter later, when Wesley Wilson banged a solo shot off thescoreboard in left-center field. That was all for McIlwain, who wasthen replaced by Wayne County ace Demarcus Henderson.

Lawrence County tied it in the bottom of the sixth. Stephensagain triggered the rally with a single. Two outs later, Votawknotted the game with a booming double to left.

“We got that last run handed to us,” Coach Keyes said, “butwe’ll take it. Our guys earned those 9 runs that got us to thatpoint, against some very tough pitchers. Almost all of those keyhits in the fifth and sixth came with 2 strikes.”

Lawrence County can close out the series with a win atWaynesboro tonight. A Wayne County win will send the series back toJimmie Davis Park for a deciding third game on Saturday.