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Lawrence Co. eliminates Wayne County

MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County Cougars stormed their way intothe third round of the MHSAA Class 4A state baseball playoffs,beating Wayne County 14-5 Saturday in the third and deciding gameof a best-of-three playoff series.

Wayne County forced a third game by beating Lawrence County 11-7in Waynesboro on Friday night. Lawrence County had won the firstgame Thursday night at Jimmie Davis Park.

With the series win, Lawrence County improved to 23-8 on theseason. The Cougars will play Picayune in the third round, startingFriday night. Wayne County, coached by Chris McCardle, finished theseason with a record of 22-8.

“It was a great day for our kids and for our program,” saidfifth-year Cougar coach Cory Keyes. “Our kids showed a lot ofcharacter, coming back from the loss in game two. We’re justthrilled to be playing another week.”

Lawrence County advanced by piling up hits and runs against 5Wayne County pitchers. The Cougars forged a 7-5 lead through 4innings, then broke the game open with a 6-run fifth-inningoutburst.

Lane Stephens had 3 hits and drove in 3 runs, and Wesley Wilsonhad 3 hits and scored 3 runs, to pace Lawrence County. Scott Votawhad 2 hits, including a homerun, and catcher Dillon Lee added asingle and a double. It was Willie Buckley’s 3-run blast thatlanded atop the old LCHS gymnasium and put the game away for theCougars. Ford Johnson and Conner Oakes also had hits.

“We got a 3-0 lead, and they tied it,” Keyes said. “Then we tooka 7-3 lead, and they got it right back to 7-5. It was our kids’ability to keep on piling on runs that won it for us today. Our twopitchers did a very decent job, too.”

Keyes opted to start junior Willie Buckley on the mound. Buckleypitched to 6 Wayne County batters in the Friday loss at Waynesboro,retiring only 1. With the Cougars’ season on the line on Saturday,he had a better day.

“Willie walked or plunked 4 of the 6 batters he faced lastnight,” Keyes said, “but we felt like he might do a little betterhere at home. He got hit some, but he gave us a chance.

“We knew if he could get us into the latter part of the game, wehad Scott (Votaw) available. Willie came through for us, big-time,and then Scott did his job.”

Buckley allowed 5 runs in 3 and 1/3 innings. Votaw shut WayneCounty out the rest of the way. In 3 and 2/3 shutout innings, Votawallowed 3 hits and struck out 4.

Votaw’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the third gave theCougars the lead for good, at 4-3. Later in the inning, with 2outs, Stephens doubled to right-center, driving in 2 more. In thesixth, Wilson, Lee, and Stephens had hits that preceded Buckley’sbig blast.

“Lane has done a great job as a 9-hole hitter,” said long-timeLCHS assistant Craig Davis. “He doesn’t hit a thing in somenon-division game in February, but he’s a cold-blooded son-of-a-gunwhen it’s crunch time, when it matters. He had a great game, agreat week.”

Wayne Co. 11, LCHS 7

Saturday’s game became necessary when Wayne County handled theCougars in game two, at Waynesboro, on Friday. A Conner Oakesinside-the-park grand slam gave LCHS a 6-1 second-inning lead, butthe Cougars were unable to hold make that lead stand up.

Wayne County chased Cougar starter Oakes in the second inning,and Buckley came in for his inglorious short stint. Ford Johnsonfinally slowed down the War Eagles’ bats, but it was too late. In 4innings, Johnson allowed 2 runs on 3 hits. He shut Wayne County outin the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

In game two, Buckley, Votaw, and Oakes each had 2 hits. Johnsonand Wilson each got 1 for the Cougars.

It was the Cougars’ unlikely victory in Thursday’s first gamethat made Saturday’s heroics possible. LCHS trailed 9-2 enteringthe bottom of the fifth in that game, but stormed back to win 10-9.An Oakes grand slam got the Cougars back into that game, and juniorJamie McCardle shut Wayne County out over the final 2 and 2/3innings.

“We had a lot of people to contribute this week,” LCHS assistantcoach Craig Davis said. “We had lots of key hits, and for the mostpart, we played good defense. And don’t forget about Jamie’spitching effort in that first game. Wayne County has a very goodhigh school baseball team. Beating them was quite anaccomplishment.”