Jackets ease their way to title-clinching triumph
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
April 25, 2014 04:03 AM | 2451 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sprayberry third baseman Alex Endres waits for the throw as Kell’s Bryan Grant dives for the bag with a head-first slide Thursday. Grant was out on the play, and the Yellow Jackets went on to win to clinch the Region 7AAAAA championship.
<Br>Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
Sprayberry third baseman Alex Endres waits for the throw as Kell’s Bryan Grant dives for the bag with a head-first slide Thursday. Grant was out on the play, and the Yellow Jackets went on to win to clinch the Region 7AAAAA championship.
Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — To secure the Region 7AAAAA championship, Sprayberry needed to win Thursday at Kell.

The Yellow Jackets held a precarious 3-1 advantage entering the seventh, and they were looking for a spark to put their cares at ease.

Instead, they got some fireworks.

Sprayberry erupted for five runs with two outs — scoring off four hits, two hit batsmen and a wild pitch — and pulled away for an 8-1 victory.

The win gave Sprayberry (17-8, 14-6) its first region title in more than a decade, and it guaranteed the Yellow Jackets a first-round Class AAAAA state playoff series next week.

“I told the guys before the game that if they win (Wednesday), they’re the region champions,” Sprayberry coach Philip Henderson said. “I put it on them and they took ownership of that. They did what they had to do and got it done.

“It’s a great feeling to be region champions. It’s hard to describe, and it hasn’t been easy.”

Kell starting pitcher Chris Lucero didn’t make it easy. He allowed three runs — one earned — on one hit through five innings. But he also gave up three walks and a hit batsman that proved costly early on.

The Longhorns’ defense didn’t provide any favors either, with two second-inning errors contributing to two Yellow Jackets’ runs.

Sprayberry took a 3-0 margin in the third when Michael Chavis’ RBI double plated Zach Williams from second.

Kell (11-13, 9-11) answered with a run in the bottom of the frame when Austin Guelzo, who had one of the Longhorns’ five hits, scored on a wild pitch.

The Longhorns still had hope when Lucero gave way to Grady Miller and he held Sprayberry in check in the sixth.

Everything changed, however, in the top of the seventh.

Williams hit a one-out single and Jordan McClure was hit by a pitch for the second time, leaving runners at first and second with two outs.

Weston Schmitter, who started on the mound in Kell’s 4-0 victory over Northview on Tuesday, entered in relief of Miller, which is when Sprayberry went on the attack.

Bobby Gauvreau, who batted 2-for-3 with a walk, doubled home Williams for a 4-1 advantage. After Spencer Fann was hit by a pitch for the second time, Zach Marletta hit a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle to plate McClure and courtesy runner Jakareon Williams for a 6-1 advantage.

A wild pitch moved courtesy runner Vandan Patel and Marletta to third and second, respectively. Alex Endres followed with a two-out, two-run single into right-center to score Patel and Marletta for the 8-1 margin.

Miller was credited for two earned runs off two hits with two hit batsmen in 1 2/3 innings, while Schmitter allowed three earned runs and hit one batter without issuing an out.

The extra runs were all Gauvreau needed to complete the game. He gave up one earned run on five hits, struck out five and walked six in a complete game.

“We had the momentum in that last inning, and I knew I wasn’t coming out,” Gauvreau said. “I trusted my infield on that final out, and it was a great team effort win. It feels like magic to be region champions.”

“It was big to get those runs late,” Henderson said. “It made things a little easier for Bobby and helped him relax. Getting those insurance runs just made us all feel better about the outcome.”

Rocky Brown, Jackson Jones, Austin Henley and Adam Pedraza each had a hit for Kell, which saw its season come to a close.

“(Sprayberry’s) a good team,” Kell coach Keith Brown said. “They’re hard to hold down. They came out swinging, eventually, and the ball got through. It was their night.”
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