HS PLAYOFFS: Julian’s jewel lifts LAMP and forces Game 3 with UMS-Wright
By Tim Gayle
After watching their ace get rocked for 10 hits in the opener, LAMP fans wondered whether their team could bounce back in the second game of the best-of-three semifinal series against UMS-Wright at Paterson Field.
Philip Julian and his Golden Tigers teammates were up to the challenge, turning back the Bulldogs 4-1 in a showcase of pitching and defense that evened the series and forced a third and deciding game on Friday at 11 a.m. at Paterson Field.
“He pitched the way he’s pitched all year,” LAMP coach Chad Smith said. “He just throws strikes and mixes it up. I mean, they can swing the bat. They hit the ball hard. We just needed to find some gloves and we did. We made some plays.”
LAMP (21-14), a 7-5 loser in the opening game, will send sophomore Myles Herron to the mound as the Tigers attempt to reach the finals for the first time since 2008. Defending 4A state champion UMS-Wright (25-12) will be aiming for its fourth trip to the finals since 2010.
The winner of the LAMP-UMS Wright series will face the winner of the Madison Academy-Haleyville series, which will also play a third game today, next week in the first round of the Class 4A finals on Tuesday at Paterson Field at 7 p.m.
“I feel confident that Myles is going to go out there, he’s going to throw strikes, he’s going to locate,” Julian said. “And if he locates his fastball, he’ll walk through them. They’ll get a couple of hits here and there, we’ll have good defense and I think we can walk away with Game 3.”
It didn’t look that way early. Thursday’s opener started with Conner Jednat reaching on an error, Sam Plash followed with a two-run blast over the left center field wall and Christian Cooper followed with a triple to the right center field wall and LAMP was in a quick 3-0 hole.
The Golden Tigers rallied to tie the game in the third with Russell Turner’s leadoff single, a two-run homer by Parker Chavers and a single from Pruett Singleton that turned into a run after a pair of Bulldog errors. But the Tigers couldn’t come up with the big hit as two runners were stranded in the third and seventh innings and the bases were left loaded in the sixth.
Plash, meanwhile, was a one-man wrecking crew for UMS-Wright, going 4 for 4 at the plate, eventually scoring after a leadoff single in the fifth and blasting a three-run home run to center field in the sixth to account for six of the Bulldogs’ seven runs.
“He hit the ball,” UMS-Wright coach Kevin Raley said. “I thought we hit it, top to bottom, pretty decent. Sam picked us up with those big hits.”
The seven runs scored against ace Winston Morgan were just four shy of the number he had surrendered over the last eight outings since area play began. And like Morgan’s only loss over that span – an extra-inning defeat to Trinity – Julian was there to pick up the pieces and get LAMP back on track.
“They’re a really good hitting team and I walked out there knowing I wasn’t just going to breeze by them,” he said. “They were going to hit and they were going to hit me hard. If they got a hit, I just rubbed it off and got back in there against the next batter, get a ground ball and have my defense behind me.
Plash wasn’t a factor in the second game, grounding out to shortstop, followed by a pair of fly outs.
“He wasn’t going to get anything close to the plate,” Julian said. “Him getting a pitch that was closer than six inches off the plate was just lucky for him.”
Tanner Allen tripled and scored in the sixth but the other three Bulldog hits were singles in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
“Their kid pitched a heck of a baseball game,” Raley said. “The Julian kid pitched great. He commanded three pitches, moved it in and out and kept us off balance. We hit a few balls pretty hard tonight. The second baseman (Austin Clark) made two really nice plays and the center fielder (Chavers) made a couple of really nice running catches. Their kids scrapped at the plate. I thought (Dalton) Goff pitched a good game. If we could’ve had a pitch or two back … But that’s baseball.”
Chavers led off the second game with a triple and had a one-out walk in the fifth, scoring both times with a flyout and double, respectively, from George Lash. Clark doubled and scored on a Turner single in the second and Lash later scored in the fifth on a passed ball for a 4-0 lead that helped LAMP keep its season alive for at least another day.
“We’ve been doing this every week,” Smith said. “The competition’s getting better. But we’re getting better, too.”