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LCHS Cougars cruise past Richland

MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County Cougars swept a baseball double-header from Richland Friday evening at Jimmie Davis Park. The Cougars won the first game handily, by a 12-3 score, then squeezed past the Rangers 5-3 in the final game. The doubleheader sweep completed a three-game series sweep by Lawrence County, which won 7-4 on Tuesday at Richland.

With the wins, Josh Garrett’s Cougars improved to 19-1 overall, and 12-0 in Division 6-4A play. That sets up a best-of-three series this week for the division championship against North Pike, which is also 12-0 in Division 6-4A games. The rivals will play a single game on Tuesday in Monticello and conclude the division schedule with a doubleheader at North Pike on Friday.

“We’re happy to be in this position,” said Garrett, who is in his second season at his alma mater. “It wasn’t easy getting here. Richland played us tough, and two of these games went down to the wire. It’ll be an interesting week with North Pike.”

In Friday’s first game, Garrett’s Cougars broke open a tight contest by putting up five runs in the bottom of the third, and continuing to pile up runs throughout the remainder of the game. Richland used two singles and a squeeze bunt to grab a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. LCHS responded with two runs in the bottom of the second. Gabriel Lewis had a singles and Brennan Lang plated a run with a sacrifice fly.

Richland tied it at 2-2 in the third. After leading slugger Brandon Smith was walked intentionally, first baseman Alec Adams came through with an RBI single. In the bottom of the frame, the Cougars took control. Gabriel Lewis and T-Tez Cole both had RBI doubles in the inning, and Josh Stephens plated a run with a sacrifice fly. The Cougars tallied single runs in the fourth and fifth, and put the Rangers away with a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth.

Lewis led Lawrence County with two hits, and he scored three runs. Brandon Bullock, Marcus Atterberry, and T-Tez Cole had two hits each. Stephens, Lang, and Kasey Durr also hit safely.

Veteran left-hander Brennan Lang gave the Cougars another solid mound outing. In seven innings, Lang allowed five hits and struck out two. Lang hit a batter and the only walk he issued was intentional. He needed just 28 batters to get the required 21 outs.

Justin Fisher and Dalton Massingill split mound duty for Richland, with Massingill entering during Lawrence County’s five-run rally. First baseman Adams drove in two of the Rangers’ three runs.

Game two was a battle, with Richland running up a 3-0 lead before Lawrence County began to rally. The Rangers touched Cougar starter Marcus Atterberry for a run in the top of the first, as shortstop Brandon Smith banged an RBI double into the left-field corner. In the third, Smith had a sacrifice fly as Richland scored two more to grab a three-run lead.

A T-Tez Cole solo homer started the Lawrence County comeback in the bottom of the third. In the fourth, Kasey Durr, Brandon Bullock, and Marcus Atterberry each had RBI singles as the Cougars claimed the lead at 5-3.

LCHS reliever Kasey Durr made that lead stand up. Taking over for Atterberry in the top of the fourth, Durr retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced, allowing only two bases on balls. He struck out two. Atterberry gave it a good fight in his three innings of work. He struck out three and allowed five hits.

Offensively, Durr led the Cougars with two hits. Bullock, Cole, Atterberry, and Marcus Kees each had one.

Richland got two hits from catcher Henry Johnson. Starting pitcher Alec Adams shut Lawrence County down through three innings and ran into really tough luck in the fourth. It was a strikeout-wild pitch that triggered the Cougars’ big inning. Reliever Landry Myers shut Lawrence County out in the fifth and sixth, striking out three.

“Richland has a fine team,” said long-time LCHS assistant Craig Davis. “They’re just a year or two away. They will win their share next year, and may contend for a championship two years from now. They’ve got great ninth- and 10th-grade classes.”