LAMP win sets up playoff play-in game vs. ACA
By Tim Gayle
The postseson rides on one game for LAMP and Alabama Christian.
After seven playoff games, a rollercoaster season of ups and downs and with championship dreams in the balance, the two teams are tied for the runner-up spot in 4A Area 4. LAMP’s 3-2 victory on Thursday afternoon at Paterson Field set the stage for today’s area finale at the AUM Dixie complex.
Trinity won the Area 4 title with a 3-0 win over St. James on Thursday. LAMP and ACA are tied for second place at 4-3. The winner travels to Sipsey Valley for the first round of the 4A state playoffs next weekend. The loser will have a long offseason to think about missed opportunities.
For LAMP (13-11), it was a long week to think about missed opportunities. The Golden Tigers would be a game ahead of the Eagles if not for a disastrous Friday afternoon in which they dropped an area game to Catholic.
“Our goal was to beat Catholic twice and ACA twice,” LAMP coach Chad Smith said. “That was our goal, to sweep. If we did that, we made the playoffs. We lost one to Catholic but it didn’t change what our goal was this week. So the mindset never changed. It might have made it tougher because when you lose, it’s in the back of your mind, ‘Are we good? Should we win?’ The mindset has been win the one today, then we’ll worry about Friday.”
ACA coach Don Gilliam was already thinking about Friday. Needing just one of the two games and facing a tough task in beating LAMP ace Winston Morgan, he opted to start his ace, MJ Galloway, in Friday’s game and pitch Grayson Evans in the Thursday matchup.
“We thought Grayson matched up well with them and he did,” Gilliam said. “Grayson gave up four hits.”
Four errors helped LAMP, including a throwing error by Galloway in the third that led to a pair of unearned runs after Sawyer Batson reached on the error and Russell Turner walked and both runners eventually scored. Galloway had given the Eagles a brief 2-0 lead in the top half of the inning on a two-run double but was stranded at third with one out, the first of two opportunities with a runner at third with less than two outs that came back to haunt the Eagles.
“In a series like this, you’ve got to execute,” Gilliam said. “We had runners at third twice with one out and we don’t get the job done. We popped it up twice. But that’s baseball. You’ve just got to execute in those situations.”
Philip Julian broke the tie in the fifth when he blooped a single into shallow right field, went to second on Turner’s sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch and scored the game-winning run on Chavers’ single to right, his second RBI of the game.
“(Evans) was good, mixing in a lot of curveballs, a lot of off-speed stuff,” Chavers said. “And he’s a good player, so we just had to fight, get our runs when we could, get runners in when they were on third base with less than two outs and I think we did a good enough job and played pretty good defense.”
Morgan pitched out of a jam in the sixth when his throwing error on a bunt left runners at first and third with no outs. John Thompson bunted toward third and Austin Clark froze the runner, then threw to first. Ford Hilyer popped up to second and Jackson Hibbard grounded out.
In the seventh, Chavers’ diving grab of Dillon Hutchinson’s line drive to center field was the first of three consecutive outs that finished off the Eagles.
“It was pretty much instincts,” Chavers said. “I read it off the bat and the last few steps I realized I had to dive, so that’s what I did. Luckily, I caught it.”
LAMP honored its seniors before the start of the game and Chavers, catcher George Lash, Morgan, Batson and right fielder Pruett Singleton all had a hand in the win.
“George behind the plate, blocking balls when it counted, with runners on third, Sawyer DHing and getting on base and scoring, Pruett catching balls in the outfield,” Smith said. “And a big catch (by Chavers) to lead off the seventh. Nobody else on the team could make that play.”
It all helped to set up a winner-take-all matchup on Friday afternoon at AUM.
“Even after the loss last week, we knew it was still in our hands,” Chavers said. “Come out here and win two games and we go to the playoffs. It’s right in front of us. We won the first one, we’ve got one more in front of us if we want to go.”