The Trojans did just that and ended the season’s first half of region play Saturday with a 7-3 win over the Raiders at Raider Mountain.
Lassiter (10-8, 3-4) had lost close decisions to two of the region favorites Milton and Roswell, while Woodstock and Wheeler, two teams at the bottom of the standings, snuck up on them.
But Saturday’s victory may be the motivation the Trojans need when they face these teams a second time.
“Our whole region’s good,” Lassiter coach Scott Kelly said. “We’re going to see everyone’s (No. 1 and No. 2) pitchers, and we’ve got to fight. Every team is going to play us like we hope to play every team. The four teams that we lost to are good teams and our backs are against the wall.”
Caleb Kutsche pitched six innings for Lassiter to get the win. Walton (13-5, 4-2) started picking at him during the latter three frames but was dominant in the first three, striking out all three batters he faced in the first inning. Kutsche gave up two runs on six hits and had seven strikeouts.
After Lassiter took a one-run lead in the top of the first inning on a Tyler Elwer RBI single, the Trojans scored three runs in the third to take command. They added another three runs in the fifth to keep Walton at bay after the Raiders threatened by scoring two runs in the previous inning.
Lassiter took advantage of Walton mistakes in the third inning. Starting pitcher Will White struggled to hit his spots, giving up four straight walks to help the Trojans add to their lead. A throwing error by second baseman Luke Manzo gave Lassiter another run and Nick Esposito an RBI before Matt McGuire’s RBI on a sacrifice fly.
McGuire and Patrick Levandoski were both 2-for-4 at the plate for Lassiter.
Walton scrapped its way back into the game in the bottom of the fourth with two runs of its own.
A towering home run over the right field wall by Henry Rowling put the Raiders on the board and made Kutsche a little vulnerable. Kutsche gave up a hit to Aaron Rzucido and a walk to Avery Roberts after the Rowling home run before Logan Barnette brought courtesy runner Reid Hanner home with a single.
Kutsche got out of the inning with no further damage and Lassiter hit a pair of home runs in the fifth to gain separation. Grant Berry’s solo home run to start the inning looked to be a routine fly before it sailed over the left field wall. Then McGuire hit a two-run home run with one out that just cleared the left field corner.
“Lassiter got the better of us (Saturday) and it was just one of those things,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “Their pitcher came out there and hit his spots and kept us off balance. You got to tip your hat, he did a good job on the mound and they did a good job at the plate. Every time we made a mistake, we hit it.”
Walton, which was in second place behind Milton in the 5AAAAAA standings going into Saturday’s game, scored its third run in the seventh with Chase Burks led off with a home run over the center field wall.
The Raiders managed to get runners on first and second after they recorded their second out, but Lassiter reliever Will Anderson struck out Rzucidio looking to end the game.
Burks was 2-for-3 at the plate for Walton and Rzucidio was 2-for-4. Stephen Wrenn was held to a double in the fifth inning and was thrown out trying to extend it to a triple.