By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Sandies hosted the Normangee Panthers last Thursday in a battle for second place in District 21-2A. Both teams came into the game with three district losses and with only two district games remaining after Thursday night’s contest, the winner would have the inside track at the second seed as the playoffs started.

The Sandies fell behind early but a strong pitching performance from Josh “Bear” Ackley, coupled with some timely hitting in the middle innings allowed the Sandies to win by a final score of 5-1 and take over sole possession of second place.

Ackley started out a little rough in the first inning. He hit the first batter he face – Cobey Powell – and then gave up a single to Evan Pate. After the single, he appeared to settle down as he struck out Ryan Pate, coaxed Dylan Hoffman to hit into a fielder’s choice and then caught Powell trying to steal home for the inning’s final out.

Powell was on the mound for the Panthers and he retired Riley Chipman and Case Boyd on four total pitches for the first two outs of the inning. Parker Wilson was hit by a pitch and promptly stole second but was stranded there when Powell caught Dustin Ackley looking at a called third strike to end the inning.

The Panthers broke into the scoring column to take a 1-0 in the second. Chayse Smith led off with a single and stole second. Ackley struck out Bubba Mayes for the first out but Smith stole his second base of the inning and scored on Logan Andrews’ ground out. Ackley shook off the run and forced CJ Rosales to ground into a 6-3 force to end the top of the second with Normangee up by a score of 1-0.

Powell retired the Sandies in order to end the while Ackley retired the first two hitters he faced and after a harmless error, he caught Ryan Pate looking at strike three to end the top of the third.

The Sandies struck back in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. After Powell retired Blake Howard on a ground out and Jeremy Luce on a swinging third strike, Chipman reached on an error in the Panthers’ outfield. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and came around to score on Boyd’s double to center.

A second wild pitch from Powell allowed Boyd to take third and when Wilson hit a ball that was booted by the Normangee infield, Boyd crossed the plate to make the score 2-1. Powell managed to settle down and retire Dustin Ackley and end the inning, but the damage was done.

As the game moved into the fourth, J. Ackley seemed to get stronger on the mound as he retired Panthers in order. When the Sandies came to bat, the pitcher helped his own cause as he singled to lead off the inning and stole second.

After Rick Frauenberger struck out, J. Ackley moved to third on a ground out from Tanner Prasatik. Howard followed Prasatik in the batting order and reached on an error which allowed J. Ackley to trot home and increase the Grapeland lead to 3-1.

Ackley had an easy fifth inning and turned the game back over to the Grapeland offense. Chipman led off with line drive that was booted in the outfield for an error. A balk moved him to third and after Boyd fanned, Wilson walked to put runners at the corners with one out.

  1. Ackley was up next and lined a shot into left to score Chipman and move Wilson to third. Two pitches later, Wilson scored on a wild pitch, D. Ackley moved to second and Powell was chased off the mound.

Evan relieved Powell and worked his way out of the inning but the Sandies now led by a core of 5-1.

Ackley worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning and while the Panthers threatened in their half of the seventh, Ackley worked his way out of jam and struck Jacob Schmidt to end the game.

Ackley picked up the win with seven innings of work. He yielded four hits, one run, struck out eight and walked two.

Powell was saddled with the loss after he worked 4.1 innings, gave up three hits, five runs, struck out four and walked one.

At the plate, Grapeland was led by Dustin Ackley who was 1-3 with one RBI and Case Boyd who was 1-4 with one RBI and a run scored.

Normangee was led by Chayse Smith who was 2-3 with a run scored and Evan Pate who was 2-3.

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