Grapeland Defeats Lovelady, 5-1

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – To be the champ, you have to beat the champ and the Grapeland Sandies did just that on Wednesday as they defeated the Lovelady Lions by a score of 5-1.

The Sandies and Lions had split their season series and had both finished district play with identical 9-3 records. As a result, Grapeland and Lovelady squared off for a third time on April 25 to determine who would enter the postseason as the one seed from District 21-AA.

Austin Driskell got the start for the Sandies and retired the first two batters he faced – Chad Fulgham and Jay Thomas Robinson. Logan Lowery, batting in the three hole, connected off of Driskell for a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Lowery was stranded there, however, when Driskell caught Carter Murray looking at a called strike three to end the Lovelady half of the first.

Murray was on the hill for the Lions and he retired his counterpart – Driskell – on a pop-up to second. Dylan Duhon was up next and he took one for the team as he was hit by a Murray pitch. Josh Ackley followed in the batting order but lined into a fielder’s choice at second.

Case Boyd took Ackley’s place in the batter’s box and laced a single through the infield. On the play, Ackley took third but he was also stranded when Ethan Peterson popped out to second.

It was déjà vu all over again in the top of the second for Driskell. He got Taylor Womack to fly out to centerfield and then struck out Ethan Tullos. After retiring the first two batters for the second inning in a row, Driskell gave up a double. This time it was to Timothy Johnson, but just like the previous inning, Johnson was stranded when Driskell got Mason Phillips to swing at strike three to end the inning.

Murray also had a fairly easy second inning. He got Blake Howard to ground into a 6-3 force for the first out. Following a single to Cooper Sheridan, Murray forced Franco Rea to foul out and then caught BJ Lamb looking to retire the side.

After Driskell pitched a 1-2-3 inning behind a strikeout of Jaxson Reeves, a fly ball out from Fulgham and a groundout from Robinson, he turned the game over to the Grapeland offense and they delivered in a big way with five runs.

Driskell led off the bottom of the third with a single and took third when Duhon roped a Murray pitch into left. Ackley was up next and he also singled to left to drive in Driskell with the game’s first run. A walk to Boyd loaded the bases for Peterson, but he couldn’t cash in and was called out on strikes.

Howard followed with a sac fly to plate Duhon which made the score 2-0. Sheridan came to the plate for his turn at bat and while he was settling in, Boyd stole second. With runners at second and third, Sheridan blistered a ball that was mishandled in the infield. The error allowed both Ackley and Boyd to score.

After the two runs, Franco Rea singled into center and moved Sheridan to third. Lamb also singled to drive in Sheridan and by the time Murray struck out Driskell to end the inning, Grapeland led by a score of 5-0.

Driskell had another easy inning in the top of the fourth. He struck out Lowery to open the frame and then Murray reached first on an error. The Grapeland pitcher shook off the miscue, got Womack to pop up and then followed up with a strikeout of Tullos.

In the bottom of the fourth, Murray gave up a lead-off walk to Duhon and then hit Ackley with a pitch. After the HBP, Murray was relieved on the mound by Robinson.

He got Boyd to ground out to first, struck out Peterson, walked Lamb and then got Sheridan to groundout to move the game to the fifth.

The Sandies also made a pitching change in their half of the inning. Johnson walked for the Lions and was moved to second on Phillip’s sacrifice.  A wild pitch moved Johnson to third and when Driskell plunked Reeves, the Sandies brought in Ackley to relieve Driskell.

Fulgham was the first batter Ackley faced and grounded back to the mound for a 1-3 force. On the play, however, Johnson scampered home to make the score 5-1.

Robinson was up next and on the first pitch he saw from Ackley, he popped up to the mound to end the Lions’ threat.

Robinson worked his way into and out of trouble in the bottom of the fifth. He got Rea to ground into a 6-3 force and then caught Lamb looking at strike three for the second out. Driskell singled up the middle and then Duhon was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Ackley was up next but lined to left for the inning ending third out.

Ackley gave up a lead-off walk to Lowery to open the sixth but then the Sandies’ defense came through with a double play to erase the baserunner. Murray slapped a rocket to second where Boyd fielded it cleanly. He wheeled and fired to Driskell – covering the bag at second – for the first out and then Driskell gunned down Murray at first for the 4-6-3 DP.

On the next pitch Ackley threw, Womack grounded back to the mound where Ackley scooped up the ball and threw to Howard at first to retire the side.

The Sandies went quietly in the bottom of the sixth as Robinson retired the side in order. He caught both Boyd and Peterson looking at strike threes and then forced a ground out from Howard to send the game into the seventh inning.

Ackley made things a little interesting when he took the mound in the game’s final frame. He got Tullos to swing at strike three and then hit Johnson with a pitch.  He followed that up with a walk to Phillips. With runners at first and second, Ackley coaxed a ground out from Reeves that advanced the runners.

Fulgham was up next and on a 2-1 pitch, Ackley got him to hit a deep fly ball to center where Lamb was waiting to squeeze the final out and give the Sandies a 5-1 win, along with the District 21-AA Championship.

Driskell was credited with the win after going 4.1 innings. He gave up one run on two hits, struck out six and walked one. Ackley took home the save in 2.2 innings pitched. He didn’t allow a hit, struck out one and walked two.

Murray took the loss in three innings of work. He gave up five runs (two earned) on seven hits, struck out three and walked two.  Robinson pitched three innings in relief, gave up one hit, struck out four and walked one.

At the plate, the Sandies were led by Driskell, who was 2-4 with a run scored, and Josh Ackley, who was 1-3, with a run scored and an RBI.

The Lions were led by Lowery who was 1-2 and Tim Johnson who was 1-1 with a run scored.

 

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