By Will Johnson
WESTWOOD – For the second week in a row, a team from Grapeland traveled to Westwood to take on a team from Alto. Last week, the Lady Yellow Jackets defeated the Sandiettes in a one-game playoff by a score of 2-1 and knocked Grapeland out of the softball postseason.
This week, Grapeland’s woes in Westwood continued as the Alto Yellow Jackets defeated the Sandies 2-1 in a best-of-three baseball series.
In game one of the series, the Sandies drew first blood when Riley Chipman drew a walk from Yellow Jacket pitcher Hunter Bush. Chipman stole second, advanced to third on a balk from Bush and crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Parker Wilson.
The Jackets evened things up in their half of the inning when Nolan Collins got a two-out single off of Grapeland starter Josh “Bear” Ackley and a triple to right from Charles Morgan.
The Sandies regained the lead in the second after Tanner Prasatik reached first on a fielding error by Alto and took second on the play. Blake Howard brought Prasatik home with a single to right and after the first inning and a half Grapeland led, 2-1.
Ackley retired the side in order in the bottom of the second and then turned it back over to the Grapeland offense to start the third. The Sandies pushed another run across the plate to make the score 3-1 after Chipman led off with his second walk of the game, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch from Bush.
Wilson collected his second RBI of the game when he drove in Chipman with a single up the middle and after Ackley shut down the Alto batting order in the bottom of the third, Grapeland looked to be in control of the game.
The momentum changed in the fourth inning, however. Bush struck out the first two batters he faced and then hit both Howard and Prasatik with a pitch. With Chipman at the plate, Grapeland looked like they were about to bust the game wide open, but on the first pitch he saw, Chipman flew out to deep right field to end the Sandies scoring threat.
When the Jackets came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, the momentum switched sides. Ackley hit Collins with a pitch, walked Morgan and then hit Harmon West with a pitch to load the bases.
Back-to-back singles from Bush and Garrett Duplichain plated Collins, Morgan and West to give Alto a 4-3 lead. Cameron Cox drew a walk from Ackley and then Lane Jackson doubled to center to bring home Bush and Duplichain to extend the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 7-3.
Alto scored a seventh run in the fourth before Grapeland could record the final out, but the Sandies didn’t throw in the towel.
As the fifth inning got underway, Case Boyd led-off with a walk and scored on Dustin Ackley’s double to the left field gap. After Bush walked J. Ackley, he was pulled and Alex McIntyre came in as a relief pitcher.
McIntyre walked Prasatik, forced Rick Frauenberger to foul out, and then walked Howard to plate D. Ackley from third. Cameron Mixon followed with a walk to score J. Ackley and tighten the score at 8-6, in favor Alto.
The Yellow Jackets added two more runs to their lead in the bottom half of the inning while Grapeland added one in the top of the seventh, but it was too late as Alto hung on to win game one by a final count of 10-7.
Game two was a completely different story as Grapeland pounded Alto pitching for nine first inning runs. Wilson was the game two starter for Sandies and worked his way out of a bases loaded jam to remain unscathed.
When the Sandies came to bat, Foster Hall opened on the mound for Alto and forced Chipman to line out to short. After that, Hall gave up five runs before recording the second out of the inning. Boyd, Wilson, D. Ackley, J. Ackley, and Prasatik scored before Jonathan Luce grounded out.
Even though Luce grounded out, he managed to move Frauenberger and Howard into scoring position. As the top of the order came around, Chipman singled to drive in Frauenberger and move Howard to third.
A walk to Boyd loaded the bases and caused Alto to head to the bullpen. McIntyre came on in relief for the second straight game and Wilson greeted him with a drive to center which was misplayed in center field. The error cleared the base paths and made the score 9-0 after the first inning.
Wilson gave up a two-out single in the top of the second to score Duplichain and then McIntyre held the Sandies in check in the bottom half of the inning.
Wilson worked around two walks in the third and then the Sandies offense gave him a little more cushion during their at-bat to make the score 13-1.
After Wilson gave up two runs in the fourth, Chipman came on in relief and he closed out the game as the Sandies won game two by a final of 14-4.
While the Sandies won game two because of the mercy rule, the Yellow Jackets nearly returned the favor in game three.
The two teams were knotted at one after the first inning as Chipman scored on a passed ball and Griffith scored for Alto on a Collins double.
Collins, the game three starter for Alto, held the Sandies scoreless in the top of the second and saw his Yellow Jackets take advantage of Grapeland miscues to plate three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Grapeland was its own worst enemy during the seconds inning as two errors in the field, a passed ball and a hit batsman allowed the Yellow Jackets to take a 4-1 lead after two innings of play.
The Sandies battled back to tie the game in the third. Luce led off with a single and scored on Chipman’s double to center. Boyd drove in Chipman with a single and scored on D. Ackley’s ground out to short.
In the bottom of the inning, Alto regained the lead on a sacrifice fly as Cox managed to tag up and scamper home to make the score 5-4, in favor of Alto.
The Yellow Jackets added two more runs to their lead in the fourth when Bush lined a two-out single to left to score McIntyre and Griffith.
Grapeland cut into the lead in the fifth inning as Boyd scored on a bases loaded walk to make the score 7-5, but that was as close as the Sandies would get as the Yellow Jackets scored three in the fifth and four in the sixth to bring the final score to 14-5 and win the series 2-1.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.