South Warren rolls to 14-4 win over Greenwood
South Warren quickly went from facing an early deficit to winning by the mercy rule on Monday.
Facing Greenwood in the first of a three-game District 14 series, the Spartans completely switched gears near the later part of the contest and rolled to a 14-4 win in five innings at Western Kentucky University’s Nick Denes Field.
“I feel like we’re hitting it pretty well heading into the district tournament,” South Warren catcher Hunter Evans said. “I’m feeling good about our lineup right now.”
South Warren (16-9 overall, 8-2 District 14) racked up nine hits, played at a high level offensively and used a dominating fifth inning to secure its sixth straight win. Although it won by 10 runs, it didn’t look as if the Spartans would have been able to accomplish that in the early stages of Monday’s affair.
Greenwood jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and later led 4-2 after two innings to hold a majority of the momentum, but South Warren turned things around and completely dominated from that point by scoring 12 runs over the course of the next three frames.
Of that trio of innings, the fourth proved to be the difference. As they were holding on to a 5-4 lead at the time, the Spartans soon scored three runs in the set – including two that came on a controversial play call that greatly benefited South and absolutely stole the life out of the Gators (16-10, 5-5).
“We just said to keep playing,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “The catcher tossed the ball out, so as long as there’s not an out called, keep running. All I said during the play was to run, run, run. I didn’t really see it – I just saw the ball go out. I saw that there was no call, so I just told them to keep running.”
Those three runs in the fourth, followed by six in the fifth, put South Warren in control for good. Evans – a WKU signee that got the chance to play a regular-season district game on his future collegiate field – led the way with a 2-for-4, five-RBI day at the plate. Additionally, Zack Beckner went 2-for-3 with three RBI, while Drew Gregory recorded a trio of RBI himself.
While having a successful day offensively, Beckner also started on the mound for the Spartans and tossed five strikeouts and three scoreless innings to make up for allowing eight hits and four runs.
“At the beginning, I didn’t have my stuff really,” Beckner said. “I was throwing it inside on outside pitches and not hitting my spots. I started to slow it down a little bit more and hit spots and let my defense work – and it did pretty well.”
Greenwood struck first, quickly scoring a pair in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded, John Hicks produced an RBI sacrifice fly to score the game’s first run. Soon after, Ausbrooks tripled into center field to plate Connor Cline and gave the Gators plenty of momentum early.
South Warren responded in the ensuing frame, evening the scoreboard with a pair of back-to-back home runs. With two outs, Jacob Lacey sent a solo shot off the scoreboard in center field – 370 feet out – and Beckner followed up with a blast into right center, which made it 2-all.
“Back-to-back … that was something right there,” Evans said of his teammates’ blasts. “I was not expecting that, but we were just hitting it well. I’m excited.”
Despite the two shots, Greenwood continued to use its bats effectively.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Dell Henk crossed the plate on a bases-loaded walk to put the Gators back in front at 3-2. Following Henk’s score, Hicks laid down a single into right field to send Cade Thornton home and increase Greenwood’s advantage to 4-2 after two complete innings.
“We had a lot of good A-Bs,” Greenwood coach Jason Jaggers said. “We got out of a jam. I think I could’ve done a better job rallying my troops a little bit.”
Trailing by a pair, South Warren began doing what its opponent was – making contact with the ball.
Behind three runs in the top of the third – and three in the fourth – the Spartans built a comfortable 8-4 lead. An error scored Sam Gage, and Evans laid down an RBI triple to tie things at 4-all. Gregory then followed with an RBI groundout to put South Warren up 5-4 entering the bottom half of the third.
After the Gators failed to score in an inning for the first time all night, the Spartans carried their momentum over from the previous set.
Leading 6-4, South Warren added a pair of runs on the controversial call in the top of the fourth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Greenwood catcher Henk dropped a third strike and proceeded to tag home plate to get the force out, but the home plate umpire said that he didn’t and two Spartans scored as a result. The third runner attempting to cross was tagged out, but the Gators suddenly faced an 8-4 deficit.
“Our catcher is a very intelligent catcher. He knows the game, he knows the rules,” Jaggers said. “He knew in that situation with the bases loaded and two outs that he has to step on the plate. He had the ball, he stepped on the plate – and made sure – and then he tossed the ball to the mound.
“Our guy did right and it’s unfortunate that (the umpires) both don’t see it. That ends up being a pivotal call that I think kind of changed the tide because we were actually right where we wanted to be.”
From that point, South Warren undoubtedly controlled the rhythm, as it went on to put together a six-run fifth and ended the game early.
The two sides will continue their slate with Game 2 set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at South Warren.