By Will Johnson
JEWETT – Since an early season, 13-12 loss to the Normangee Panthers, the Grapeland Sandies have won three straight District 21-2A games by a combined score of 40-4. That trend continued on Tuesday, March 19 as the Sandies traveled to Jewett to take on the Leon Cougars.
Grapeland jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as they cruised to a 9-4 win and moved to 4-1 in district competition.
Jacob Robinson was on the mound for the Cougars to start the game and managed to keep the Sandies in check for the better of four innings. Josh Ackley led off the contest with a ground out to second but Justin Bobbitt was able to draw a walk off of Robinson.
A passed ball moved Bobbitt to second and on a 2-2 count to Austin Driskell, he stole third. Driskell popped up in foul ground on the next pitch, but the ball was just deep enough to allow Bobbitt to tag up and score the game’s first run.
Gavin French was up next and drew a walk, however, he was stranded there when Blake Howard popped up to third to end the Grapeland half of the inning.
Ackley got the start for Grapeland and on the second pitch he threw, he plunked Leon’s Cameron Aldridge. Once Ackley got that out of his system, he struck out the next three Cougars he faced to send the game into the second inning.
After a quiet second inning, the Sandies struck for two more runs in the third. Ackley was back at the plate and was caught looking at strike three. Bobbitt followed with a single past third and promptly stole second and third. Driskell followed with a single up the middle and just like that the score was 2-0.
Driskell stole second and then an error on the Leon catcher moved him to third. French was up next and flew out to center. On the play, however, Driskell was able to tag up and trot home to make the score 3-0.
Howard reached on an error and moved to third on Cameron Navarette’s double to left. That was as far as Howard and Navarette would get, unfortunately, as Cooper Sheridan grounded out to end the top of the third.
Ackley continued to dominate when the Cougar hitters when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning. He got both Keeton Caveness and Aldridge to swing at strike three and kept the Leon batting order on their toes when he hit Ryan Ahearn with a pitch. Ahearn was stranded at the first base bag when Peyton Pruett grounded into a 5-3 force to send the game into the fourth inning.
Grapeland tacked on another run in the top of the fourth by playing small ball. Jason Bobbitt lined out to left to lead off the inning, but Colten Franklin followed with a single to right. Ackley was up next and was hit by a Robinson pitch, which moved Franklin to second base.
Ju. Bobbitt followed in the order but popped up to first for the second out. Driskell was up next and hit a shot to second which was mishandled, giving Franklin the opportunity to motor around the bases and cross the plate to make the score 4-0. French followed Driskell to the plate but grounded out to short to end the Grapeland half of the inning.
The bottom half of the fourth saw the Cougars cut the Sandies’ lead in half. Stran Copeland led off with a bunt single and Brock Beamer drew a walk off of Ackley. Copeland and Beamer moved up a base on a wild pitch and when Robinson connected for a base hit on a full count, Copeland crossed the dish with Leon’s first run.
Ackley regained his composure on the mound to strike out Dustin Watson and Wyatt Robertson. Two pitches later, Beamer, who made it to third on Robinson’s base knock, stole home to make the score 4-2. Ackley struck out Caveness to end the inning and move the game into the fifth.
The Sandies got the two runs back in the top of the frame after Howard reached on an error and came around to score on Navarette’s second double of the game. Robinson then issued a walk to Sheridan and that was it for Leon’s starter.
Aldridge relieved Robinson on the mound and struck out the first two batters he faced – Ja. Bobbitt and Colten Franklin. With Navarette on second and Sheridan on first, Aldridge hit Ackley with a breaking ball that didn’t break to load the bases. The next batter was Ju. Bobbitt and with nowhere to put him, Aldridge walked in a run to make the score 6-2.
The Sandies went on to add three more runs in the top of the seventh while the Cougars plated two which made the final score 9-4. Ackley picked up the win in six innings. He gave up two runs on three hits, struck out 13 and walked two.
Robinson was saddled with the loss in 4.2 innings of work. He gave up six runs (three earned) on six hits, struck out four and walked four.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.