Nick Boden’s squeeze bunt scored Sean Reagan with the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, part of a five-run inning that sent the Lions (21-12) to a remarkable 6-5 victory in the decisive Game 3 of their quarterfinal series and their fifth straight trip to the Class AA semifinals.
“We executed, we did some things really well but the ball also bounced our way in the seventh inning and we were fortunate to come out ahead,” Lovett coach Lance Oubs said.
It started with a cardinal sin by a pitcher with the lead: walking the first batter. Grant Haley took a base on balls, Robbie Blair singled him to second and Robert Currie walked to load the bases. That sent Greeson to the dugout and brought in John Register, who promptly surrendered a run-scoring single to Reagan, scoring Haley, and a bases-loaded walk of Brant Wells bringing home Blair to cut the lead to 4-3, keeping the bases juiced with nobody out.
Calhoun (21-7-1) then brought in Austin Norrell, and Brooks Schoen chopped a grounder to second that scored Currie for the tying run. Boden followed with his squeeze bunt, and Jack Stickney clubbed a sacrifice fly to left to bring inthe final run of the inning.
Perhaps knowing how critical that extra insurance run was, giving Lovett a two-run cushion, Stickney did a flying hip bump with teammates by the dugout after his at-bat. The Lions were all the way back from the brink of elimination to a two-run lead and moving on.
“We talked about having quality at-bats in that last inning, being patient, knowing the strike zone, trying to work the count,” Oubs said. “That helped in that we went up there not chasing pitches. We knew, down by three, every runner was important.”
Greeson pitched a gutsy game, going six innings and allowing just one run before the three charged to him in the seventh.
“When a senior says I want the ball, you live and die with him,” Calhoun coach Chip Henderson said of sticking with Greeson. “Obviously, the leadoff walk kind of set the tone. He’d been pretty solid all day long. He’s a battler, he’s a competitor and he wanted it.”
Mitch Stallings came on to close it out for the Lions in the bottom of the seventh. He retired the first two hitters before allowing a solo home run to Weston McArthur, but he came back to strike out Jackson Brumlow swinging to end the game.
Calhoun took a 2-0 lead after two innings before Lovett cut it in half with an RBI single by Currie to score Blair in the third. The Yellow Jackets stretched the advantage to 3-1 on Jeremy Wyatt’s homer in the fifth and added another run in the sixth on a two-out run-scoring single by Wyatt to plate Greeson.
The home run by Wyatt was Drew Williams’ only mistake in three innings of solid relief. After a shaky start for Lovett’s Robbie Baker (1.1 innings, two runs), Williams, Dylan Malinowski, Schoen and Stallings combined to throw 5.2 innings, give up three runs, five hits, four walks and strike out two.
“I told them, ‘It’s not going to be one guy today,’” Oubs said. “It’s going to take a bunch of guys today. Everybody who went out there did their job to the best of their ability. Kept us in the ball game, kept it close and like I said, we were fortunate to have a big inning there in the seventh.”
It was quite an end to quite a series after a pair of nail-biter pitcher’s duels a day earlier, with Calhoun taking the opener 3-2 before Lovett’s Jack Geraghty fired a shutout for a 2-0 victory in Game 2.
“Hats off to Calhoun,” Oubs said. “It’s a shame anybody has to lose a series like this. The fans got treated to three really exciting ballgames.”