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Sandies Win a Nail Biter

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Grapeland Defeats Lovelady, 2-1

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Sandies seem to be enjoying their new digs. After they walloped the North Zulch Bulldogs 10-0 while Josh Ackley and Austin Driskell combined on a no-hitter last Friday, the Sandies welcomed their long-time rival – the Lovelady Lions – to town.

In 11.2 innings since the opening of Sandie Field, Grapeland pitcher Josh Ackley has won two games and given up one run on four hits. He has also recorded 17 Ks and walked five during that span.

The Lions have had the Sandies number as of late, but with a new field, there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism and toughness in the Grapeland dugout. The toughness showed itself on Tuesday, March 28 as the Sandies pulled out a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

Ackley was on the bump once again for the Sandies and while he put two men on base with a walk and a hit batsman, he worked his way out of trouble to extend his hitless streak to 5.2 innings at Sandie Field.

Carter Murray was on the mound for the Lions and while he allowed two Sandies to reach base, Murray was also able to get out of the jam unscathed and send the game to the second inning.

Jaxson Reeves led off the second for the Lions and drew a walk off of Ackley. The Lions were unable to do anything with the walk, however, as Tim Johnson and Alex McKnight both hit into a fielder’s choice while Ethan Tullos grounded out.

In the Sandies’ half of the second, Murray dominated the Grapeland hitters. He retired Cooper Sheridan on a 5-3 force, struck out Camarron Mixon and got BJ Howard to ground to Phillips at first, who made a diving stab at the bag to nip Howard by less than half a step.

Ackley had a relatively easy third as he forced Chad Fulgham to fly out to Howard in centerfield and then retired both Murray as well as Jay Thomas Robinson on ground outs.

Murray continued his mastery of the Sandies in the third. He got Austin Driskell to ground to Phillips at first for out number one and then fanned both Ackley and Dylan Duhon to retire the side.

Both Ackley and Murray worked 1-2-3 fourth innings to send the game into the fifth.

In that inning, Tim Johnson became the first opposing batter to get a hit at Sandie Field when he lined an Ackley pitch into left.

Ackley tried to pick off Johnson, but threw wide of Blake Howard at first for a two base error. Johnson also became the first opposing player to score a run when McKnight hit into a 6-3 fielder’s choice to put the Lions up by a score of 1-0.

Case Boyd readies for a hit in the latter innings of the Sandies game against the Lovelady Lions. Grapeland won the District 21-AA contest by a final score of 2-1.

Tullos was up next and hit a slow chopper to short. Driskell went deep in the hole to field the ball, but Tullos beat the throw for the Lions’ second hit. Fulgham was up next and lined a pitch into left to put runners at the corners.

Robinson drew a walk off of Ackley to load the bases and just when it looked like the Lions were poised for a big inning, Ackley coaxed Murray to hit a grounder right at Case Boyd. Boyd flipped to Driskell who was covering the bag at second for one out and then Driskell threw a rocket to Howard at first for an inning ending double play to hold the score at 1-0.

Murray looked like that might be all he would need as he got Sheridan to fly out to right and then struck out Mixon and BJ Howard to retire the side in the bottom of the fifth.

As the game moved to the sixth inning, Ackley danced into and out of trouble. An error allowed Lovelady’s Logan Lowery to reach first and when Phillips hit a little looper over Howard at first, it looked as if Lowery might have a chance to score.

Boyd, however, ranged over from his second base position to field the ball and threw a strike to Ethan Peterson at third to catch Lowery in mid-slide for the first out. Jaxson Reeves was up next and hit into a 4-3 fielder’s choice that moved Phillips to second.

From there, Ackley took matters into his own hands as he caught McKnight swinging at strike three to end the Lovelady at-bat.

Things didn’t look good for the Sandies as they came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning. Driskell slapped a shot towards second that looked like it might get through, but Robinson showed off his leaping ability as he climbed the ladder to rob Driskell of a hit.

Dylan Duhon was up next and reached on an error. He stole second and when the throw got past the shortstop on his steal, Duhon scampered to third.

Carter Murray was the hard luck loser as he worked six innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits. He also recorded nine Ks and walked two.

Ackley was up next and delivered a liner into left to drive in Duhon with the tying run. Boyd followed Ackley in the line-up and legged out an infield single to move Ackley into scoring position.

After Ackley stole third, Boyd stole second but Peterson swung at a Murray pitch out of the zone for strike three and out number two.

With Blake Howard at the plate, Murray uncorked a pitch McKnight couldn’t handle. Ackley broke for home as McKnight scrambled to retrieve the ball, but it was too late as Ackley crossed the plate with the go ahead run. Howard eventually walked, but Murray struck out Sheridan to end the Grapeland at-bat.

The damage was done, however, as the Sandies had captured a 2-1 lead. Up by one and needing only three outs for the win, Ackley went to work. He got McKnight to ground into a 6-3 force, got Tullos to swing at strike three and then caught Fulgham looking at a curve for a game-ending strike three call.

Ackley went the distance and picked up the win. He gave up one run on four hits, struck out five and walked three.

Murray was the hard luck loser as he worked six innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits. He also recorded nine Ks and walked two.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.