SPORTS>>Hits don’t come when needed
Leader sports editor
Fayetteville – Abundant Life gave up three unearned runs, but the key issue of its 5-1 loss to Horatio in the state championship game Saturday in Fayetteville was lack of timely hitting. The Owls got seven base hits, compared to just three for the Lions, but only got their leadoff hitter on base once, and couldn’t get that elusive base hit while runners on the bags.
“That’s it,” Abundant Life coach Wes Johnson said. “We only struck out twice, so we were putting it in play. We just couldn’t get a base hit when we just had to have it. The one inning we got the leadoff runner on, we scored. We just weren’t able to do anything until there were two outs, and then couldn’t get anything after that.”
The Owls’ first run came in the second inning when a Justin Treece single scored Jerry Lawson.
Abundant Life lost the lead in the bottom of the third, but only after what should have been a third-out strikeout by starting pitcher D.J. Baxendale. Baxendale struck out Horatio’s Brett Weatherwax with a curve ball in the dirt that got by the catcher. Baxendale then hit Alex Ayers, and Dillon Blankenship laid down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed by the Owls. Catcher Thomas Garrick overthrew second baseman Carson Seelinger, who was covering first base. Right- fielder Colby Woolverton then mishandled the ball while scooping up the overthrow and both runners scored on the play. Horatio starting pitcher Kolton Saulsbury then tripled down the right-field line for the first Lion hit of the game. The hit drove in Blankenship, and Saulsbury scored on an infield single by Matt Jones.
Bad luck cost the Owls another run in the fifth inning. A bases-loaded pop-up down the right-field line, just behind first base, landed in just the perfect spot for Matt Jones. No Owl fielder could get the to ball before it landed on right on the dirt-grass border. Woolverton caught the ball on the bounce and threw home. The throw was in time to get a force out, but no tag was applied. The umpires ruled the hit an infield fly, which took away the force and left the runner safe at home to set the final margin. The ruling was technically the right call, and no beef was made. The big disappointment for the Owls goes back to the timely hitting.
“They had two runs that were legitimately earned,” Johnson said. “So the bottom line is we still have to score more runs. We still lose even if you take away our mistakes. We just didn’t get it done today.
“Baxendale threw a good game. The sophomore right-hander went the distance with eight strikeouts and no walks while giving up only three hits.
Abundant Life finishes the season with a record of ?? while Horatio finished 30-6.
“That’s a great record,” Johnson said of Horatio. “Any time you win 30 ball games you’ve done something. We knew we had to hit well and play mistake-free baseball to beat a team like that, and we didn’t do it. We feel like things would have been different if we had done those things, but we didn’t so we just give Horatio all the credit they deserve.”