COLUMBIA – The Laurence Manning Academy baseball team had been in this position before: at Ben Lippen Stadium, holding a lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, in the second game of …
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COLUMBIA – The Laurence Manning Academy baseball team had been in this position before: at Ben Lippen Stadium, holding a lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, in the second game of a best-of-3 SCISA 3A state playoffs semifinal series.
Last year, the Swampcats closed out a gut-check victory and went on to win their second straight state championship. On Tuesday, with LMA up 4-3, the Falcons dealt a blow to the 2-time defending state champions.
Will Taylor scored the game-tying run on Madison Matthew’s RBI single, then walked off with a 5-4 victory when Garrett Summers scored on Lee Metts’ infield grounder.
The victory closed out a 2-game sweep of the Swampcats and moves Ben Lippen to play Cardinal Newman in the state championship series beginning on Monday.
“We had some good chances, some we took advantage of and some we didn’t,” said LMA coach Barry Hatfield, whose team ends the 2018 run with a 17-6 record. “That’s just playoff baseball. These seniors, this is the first time in their careers, from middle school on, that they didn’t win the last game that they played in the season.”
Swampcats closer Jake Jordan, coming on to start the seventh in relief of starter Braydon Osteen, walked Taylor on four pitches, but rallied and struck out Nat Turner.
Taylor moved to second in Turner’s at-bat, but could only reach third when Summers’ long double fell just short of the fence in leftfield. LMA still held a lead, but when Hatfield called an intentional walk to Tripp Williams to load the bases with one out, Ben Lippen was itching to pull the trigger.
The home crowd exploded in delight when Matthews’ single enabled Taylor to finally cross the plate. LMA’s lead was erased, and with the score knotted at 4, Ben Lippen was one play away.
Metts’ slapped a grounder to Brent Jordan for what appeared to be an anticlimactic play. Jordan scooped the ball and threw to catcher Dalton Page to get the force at the plate, but the ball bounced in the dirt, scooted past Page, and Summers stepped on the plate for the game-winning run.
“We’ve done that about three or four times on this field this year,” first year Ben Lippen head coach Matt Padgett said of the rally. “I really felt like all our guys kept in the box right there, ready to hit. We got the job done when we needed to and I’m super proud of them.”
Eli Johnson worked a complete game for the 19-6 Falcons. He gave up three hits and held the Swampcats hitless after the third inning.
Osteen pitched six full innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits. He struck out two and walked two.
“He gave me a great effort, one that I knew he was going to give me on the mound,” Hatfield said.
LMA picked up a run in the first and another in the third, getting singles from Taylor Lee, Jake Jordan, and Braydon Osteen in those innings. Those were the only hits of the game for the Swampcats.
Even so, LMA held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. In that frame, Ben Lippen got two runs on two hits to take a 3-2 lead.
The Swampcats got an unearned run in the sixth to tie the game at 3, taking advantage of three Falcons errors.
LMA took the lead when Taylor Lee scored on a double steal attempt as Riley Nettles batted with two out. When Nettles grounded out, the Swampcats were charged with holding their one-run lead in hopes of staying alive in the postseason.
The eight seniors who led the defending state champions for the last several years have nothing to be ashamed of," Hatfield said. "They’ve won two state championships. It’s got to go down to a very good senior class, not just in baseball, but these kids are gonna be fine young men, and I’m proud of every one of them.”
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