COURTLAND — In one sense, Lafayette High’s team of mostly freshmen and sophomores had little to lose Monday in its Region I baseball tournament quarterfinal at Southampton. Having already turned around a program that was 4-14 a year ago, a win over the unbeaten Indians would’ve been icing on the cake for the Rams.
Instead of icing, the Rams were dealt a 5-4 loss in nine innings by the Indians and a lesson much harder to swallow. They learned that base-running mistakes and defensive errors are magnified on the regional level.
“I’m glad we got to the regionals and I thought we played well,” Rams coach Rick Schenk said. “But it’s all about opportunities.
“We didn’t take care of the ones we had.”
Mason Wright’s run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth gave the Indians (16-0) the victory and the opportunity to host Warhill (18-4) on Wednesday afternoon in a semifinal, with a berth in the Group AA state tournament on the line. But the Rams (13-8) lost a chance to close the game out with an error in the bottom of the seventh, and to regain the lead with a base-running mishap in the top of the eighth.
The Rams led 4-3 going into the bottom of the seventh, in large part because of a fine pitching effort by sophomore Daniel Blankinship. To that point, he had struck out seven and given up three runs, all in the third inning and only one of them earned.
Blankinship also drove in a run with a single. Freshman Andre Lipcius drove in the other three runs, with his two-run single up the middle in the top of the fifth giving the Rams a 4-3 lead that held to the bottom of the seventh.
Cecil Lowe, who had three hits, doubled to begin the Southampton seventh, when the Rams made their first key mistake. The next batter, Zach Vann, bunted Lowe to third and reached safely himself.
Immediately after reaching first, Vann broke unexpectedly for second, but was thrown out by Rams first baseman Solomon McCray. Lowe broke for home and should’ve been tagged at the plate, but the throw from second was low and Lowe was safe to tie the game at 4.
McCray walked to start the Rams’ eighth and stole second with one out. Blankinship cracked a hard ball up the middle for an infield single, but McCray, who was held up at third by his coach, slipped when he rounded the bag.
McCray was caught in a wild rundown on the play and tagged out. The Rams’ next two batters drew walks to load the bases, but Indians reliever Hunter Peck got a fortuitous call on the inside corner from the umpire on a full count to strike out Brandon Villanueva-Pernell and end the inning.
Lafayette reliever Jeremiah Antle hit Vann on a full count to start the bottom of the ninth. Vann moved to second on Peck’s sacrifice, went to third on a double-play grounder and scored the winning run on Wright’s single to right.
“I’m happy with the season overall,” said Schenk, who has only two seniors on a 16-man roster. “With all of these freshmen and sophomores, I never expected to finish third in the Bay Rivers District.
“I’m glad they made the regional to see what it’s all about.”
SOUTHAMPTON 5, LAFAYETTE 4 (9 innings)
Lafayette 011 020 000 — 4 9 3
Southampton 003 000 101 — 5 13 3
WP: Peck (5-0). LP: Antle (0-1). Standouts: Lafayette, A. Lipcius 2-5 (3 RBI), McCray 2-2, Blankinship 2-3; Southampton, Spalding 2-5, Wright 2-5 (winning RBI single in 9th), Pope 2-4 (2 RBI), Lowe 3-4 (2 runs), Peck 2-2. Records: Lafayette 13-8, Southampton 16-0.
Culpeper 5, New Kent 3
Dakota Oxendine had three hits and drove in two runs for host New Kent, but the Trojans’ season ended with a 5-3 loss to Culpeper.
New Kent (17-6), which scored its runs in the bottom of the seventh, pulled within 5-3 and had runners on first and second base with one out, but grounded into a double play to end the game.
Culpeper 010 004 0 — 5 7 1
New Kent 000 000 3 — 3 12 2
WP: Ferrell. LP: Metheny. Standouts: Culpeper, Peasley 2-3 (double), Krimm 2-3 (double, 1 RBI); New Kent, Michael Carpenter 2-2 (run), Dakota Oxendine 3-4 (2 RBI), Jake Countiss 2-4 (stolen base), Trey Cox 2-2 (1 run). Records: Culpeper 16-5, New Kent 17-6.