Fortunately for Lassiter, it was able to do both.
The Trojans picked up an 8-7 non-region victory at home over Hillgrove Friday, while also providing opportunities for several players to contribute.
The win wasn’t easy, though, as Lassiter (12-7) led 7-1 after five innings. Hillgrove (10-10) scored three runs in the top of the sixth and three more in the seventh to knot the contest at 7-all. But Steven Jenkins drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh, forcing in Grant Berry to end the game.
It marked the third consecutive win for Lassiter, which played its first game since spring break began. The Trojans’ remaining games are all against Region 5AAAAAA opponents, beginning with today’s home game against region leader Milton.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish (Friday),” Lassiter coach Scott Kelly said. “We had guys that needed to throw, and we got them in the game, and we had a bunch of guys get in the field and play defense and get some swings at the plate.
“This wasn’t about a win or loss for us. Now, we’re fortunate to get it, and we did what we had to do to get the win, but that wasn’t what this was about. This was a game against a very good Hillgrove team to get us prepared for the next two weeks of region games, so we accomplished what we wanted to get done.”
Berry batted 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, Tyler Elwer was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Eric Ankerholz hit 2-for-4. Patrick Levandoski had a two-out, two-run single in the first. Will Anderson and Matt McGuire each had one RBI for the Trojans, while Patrick Holmes scored twice.
Hillgrove gave up nine walks, including three to McGuire, and allowed two Lassiter players that reached base on errors to come around to score.
Despite the pitching and defensive struggles, the Hawks rallied to make the game competitive.
Hillgrove’s Chad Adkins led off the game with a double and scored on Tyler Weyenberg’s RBI groundout, but Lassiter recovered with five runs off two hits and five walks in the bottom half of the first.
The margin grew to 7-1 in the fourth, as back-to-back two-out singles from Elwer and Berry plated Ankerholz and Holmes. Holmes reached first on an error that would have ended the inning.
Hillgrove got back in the game behind the efforts of its relievers, along with solid performances from the plate.
An error and a wild pitch in the sixth allowed Tristan DeLozier and Weyenberg to score. Matthew Vaccaro reached first on an error and eventually scored off Jacob Farmer’s RBI double to trim the deficit to 7-4.
Adkins, who batted 2-for-4 with two runs scored, led off the seventh with a home run, and John Devine’s two-out, two-run single scored DeLozier and Weyenberg to knot the game at 7-all.
Berry reached first for Lassiter off an error in the seventh and moved to second on Casey Robbins’ fielder’s choice. Back-to-back one-out walks allowed Berry to score the winning run.
Caleb Kutsche, who gave up one earned run on three hits and struck out five in four innings, started for Lassiter. Alex Hess, J.T. Higginbottom and K.J. Sinclair pitched in relief.
Pitchers Justin Haney, Cade Douglas, Casey McGourk and Adkins came on in relief of Hillgrove starter Nick Andrews.
“Our bullpen did a fantastic job and gave us an opportunity,” Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson said. “Our bats did a good job at the end. We competed. We just have to find a way to get through adverse situations and make plays.
“We gave Lassiter 11 free baserunners, and that’s been a problem for us against big teams. We have to clean that up over the next two weeks to give us a chance at qualifying for state.”
Hillgrove, 7-3 in Region 4AAAAAA, is tied with Harrison for third, one game ahead of North Cobb. The Hawks still have two-game series ahead with both teams.