Trinity takes control of 4A Area 4 race
By Tim Gayle
Trinity showed Alabama Christian the way to manufacture runs in the first inning of Friday’s doubleheader between the two area rivals at Jason Armstrong Field.
In the fourth inning, given an opportunity to do it again, Trinity was thrown out twice on base-running mistakes.
“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and then me being frustrated because we got out,” Trinity coach Ken Whittle explained. “If I do that too much, then my guys won’t be aggressive, so it’s a balance of when to say something and not say something. They understand the game a little better, understand why we do what we do and why we want to do what we do. I have to learn myself how to handle that so I don’t take that aggressiveness away from them.”
The Wildcats took a huge step in clinching the 4A Area 4 regular-season title with a series sweep of Alabama Christian, winning on Thursday at AUM and on Friday with a 5-0 and 4-3 doubleheader sweep.
Only the first game of the doubleheader counted in the area standings and Alabama Christian coach Don Gilliam was frustrated at his team’s mistakes with so much on the line.
“It boils down to making routine plays,” Gilliam said. “We did not make the routine plays and when you give a team chance after chance after chance, it’s going to come back and get you every time.
“(Starting pitcher) Grayson (Evans) threw strikes and he got ground balls. He threw his guts out. He got the ball on the ground for us, it’s our job to pick it up and throw it over. He did exactly what he was supposed to do today.”
Even with the series sweep, Alabama Christian would not be disappointed for long. LAMP, which had routed Catholic on Thursday, lost both games with the Knights on Friday, putting the Eagles back in the driver’s seat for second place in the area standings and a playoff berth.
LAMP’s Friday afternoon losses assured the Wildcats of a playoff berth and all but handed the Area 4 title to Trinity, which improved to 5-1. Trinity owns the tiebreakers with both Alabama Christian and LAMP, so the only way Trinity would not win the area title is if St. James swept the Wildcats in the first two games next Thursday and Friday while ACA swept LAMP in the first two games of the three-game series.
Any ACA victory, either Thursday or in the first game of a doubleheader on Friday, assures the Eagles of a playoff berth. Only a sweep by LAMP in the first two games of the three-game series would bump ACA out of a playoff spot.
Trinity is 5-1 in area play, followed by ACA at 4-2, LAMP at 3-3, St. James at 2-4 and Catholic at 2-6. The Trojans and the Knights are eliminated from playoff competition.
“It is like the SEC West,” Gilliam said. “There is still a lot of ball to be played.”
James Wilder singled to lead off the bottom of the first and from there things got interesting. Marshall Dean reached base on a fielder’s choice bunt when officials ruled he was not tagged on the play. Camden Lovrich’s bunt advanced both players and Trace Bright reached on an infield single, the first of five slow-rolling grounders in the game in which ACA failed to record an out. Bright’s single scored Wilder and Dean scored later when both runners on base executed a double steal and the Eagles failed to get anyone out.
Wilder scored in the second inning as well when he was caught off first, but the ball was thrown away in the ensuing rundown and the senior eventually scored on a single by Lovrich for a 3-0 lead. The Wildcats added two unearned runs in the sixth for the final margin.
That was more than enough for Dean, the second baseman turned pitcher who held ACA to a pair of hits as Dillon Hutchinson led off the game with a single and Ford Hilyer led off the third with a single.
“We’d like to keep him at second,” Whittle said, “but Nolan Sasser has been able to take that responsibility when Marshall goes (to the mound). That’s been a big plus for us. Marshall has got a little toughness about him, a little mental toughness as well as physical toughness. It was really good to see Marshall on the mound today. Nolan stepping up and giving us a chance to put Marshall on the mound is a big plus, too.”
Trinity (18-4) won Thursday’s game 9-6 with Lovrich on the mound as Wilder and Dean went 2 for 4 and Lovrich was 2 for 3. They won the second game of the doubleheader 4-3 with Jack Biser picking up the win on the mound to complete the series sweep of the Eagles.
“They’re the kind of guys we like to play because they show us where we need to be better,” Whittle said. “It challenges us to focus mentally and physically out there. I think we stepped up today and (Thursday) with the mental challenge, recognizing that ACA is a real good baseball team and we had to play seven innings – not two, not three, but seven innings.”