The setup for Friday night’s varsity baseball game between the River Bluff Gators and the Lexington Wildcats was good.
The setup for the March 25 varsity baseball game between the River Bluff Gators and the Lexington Wildcats was good.
The Gators had taken the first two games of the week’s three-game series with the Wildcats 13-1 and 7-0 and seemed to have the momentum to sweep the series and add to their 5-0 undefeated conference record as they closed out on Lexington’s home field. The Wildcats had other ideas, however, and managed to pull off a gutsy 4-3 win that came down to their final seventh inning at bat.
The night started with River Bluff having little trouble getting runners on base.
An errant Wildcat throw to third base on a base hit with two runners on meant that the Gators quickly went up 1-0.
In the bottom of the third, Lexington was able to play small ball and use stolen bases to get runners in scoring position, and after Braden Cromer walked, a wild pitch allowed the Wildcats to even the score, 1-1. After River Bluff switched pitchers, putting in Matthew Garris, Landon Knight drew another walk to load the bases a second time with only one out. A fly out from Patrick Evans drove in another run before the end of the inning, giving the Wildcats the lead at 2-1.
River Bluff’s biggest inning was the fifth, with Walker Mitchell driving in a run to tie the game and Weston Grant’s fly ball out scoring a second to put the Gators back up 3-2, and after a scoreless sixth, it looked like the Gators might survive the Wildcat challenge. Lexington had other ideas, and after holding River Bluff scoreless in the top of the final inning, Tyler Floyd put a solo home run over the left field fence to tie the score. After a pair of base hits, Landon Knight added a third ground ball hit that made it out of the infield to allow the winning run to score.
After the game, Wildcats head coach Brian Hucks gave his highest praise to starting pitcher Owen Watts, who wasn’t even supposed to be playing this game.
“Brandon Cromer was scheduled to start tonight but came up with a sore shoulder yesterday and wasn’t going to be able to go tonight,” Hucks said. “We put in Owen, who’s a sophomore, and just told him to compete – I hoped that after three innings we’d still be in the game and could turn it over to our bullpen at that point.”
Watts did his part and then some, Hucks said.
“He went out there and competed his tail off – River Bluff has one of the best offensive lineups I’ve seen in a long time in high school baseball, and Owen gave us every chance to be in this game and win,” his coach said. “He’s the reason we were only down one in the seventh.”
About that crucial final inning, Hucks said it was a result of adjusting to what they had been seeing throughout the game.
“I feel like our guys had a really good plan in the seventh,” He said. “We just came out and stayed on the ball, made the adjustments we needed to.”
With the win, the Wildcats are 4-2 in conference play, which puts them second behind River Bluff, who sit in first at 5-1. Lexington plays a three-game series with White Knoll this week, while River Bluff won’t play another conference game until April 17 against Dutch Fork.
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