LHS earns split with Mill Valley
Stratton’s sacrifice fly seals league victory in opener
If these are the type of baseball games the Troy Andrews era is going to be all about, then Lansing High baseball fans are in for one heck of a thrill ride.
Lansing, taking on Kaw Valley League rival Mill Valley in the season opener at LHS Field, played a pair of riveting, down-to-the-final-out nail-biters and came away with a hard-fought split.
Lansing rallied for a 7-6 victory in the first game - the one that counts in the league standings. Later, Mill Valley hung on for a 14-12 win in the nightcap.
"I think this was a good test of where our ball club is right now, and it gives us an idea of what we need to work on, because they showed our weaknesses," said Andrews, Lansing's first-year coach. "It was good for us."
Game One played out more like a boxing match. Mill Valley would hit first, and Lansing would punch right back. The Jaguars surged to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning as they capitalized on two singles, a walk and an error. The Lions responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Cody Mohan and Chris Wagner ripped back-to-back singles. Jeff Terrill walked to load the bases. Kyle Miller laced a two-run double down the left-field line, and Jordan Pratt hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Terrill to score and tie the game.
Mill Valley regained the lead in the top of the third when senior Joey Garrett smashed a two-run homer, but Lansing again answered with two runs of its own. Wagner reached base on a fielders choice. Terrill followed with a double to left. Both then scored on a double to left by Miller. That notched the game at 5-5.
Mill Valley again took the lead when it took advantage of an infield single and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth. After that, Lansing's defense buckled down for good. The Lions then did their final damage with the bats. They stranded two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, but the seventh inning was different. Wagner hit a leadoff double. Terrill walked. A single by Miller brought Wagner home and advanced Terrill to third. Pratt struck out for the first out of the inning, but sophomore Johnny Stratton stepped to the plate and hit a sacrifice fly to left that brought Terrill home with the winning run.
"It was just an exciting game," Stratton said. "Bottom of the seventh. It can't get any better than that."
As dramatic as the first game was, the second may have topped it. Mill Valley exploded to a 9-2 lead after 3 1/2 innings, but Lansing came storming back.
Stratton smashed a three-run home run - the first of his prep career - as part of a six-run fourth that pulled the Lions to within 9-8.
"That's one thing that's really good about this team. We don't get down," Stratton said. "Even though we were down 9-2, after that home run we realized we're back in it."
The Jaguars' bats continued to pop as they plated three more runs in the fifth to stretch their lead back out to 12-8. Again, the Lions fired right back. Pratt opened the fifth with a double and then scored on a single to left by Stratton. Mike Bayless reached on a fielder's choice. Then Stratton and Bayless both scored on a double off the center field fence by Mohan. Wagner followed with a single that plated Mohan and tied the game at 12-12.
Neither team scored in the sixth, but Mill Valley added two more runs in the top of the seventh. Both came with two outs. One was the result of a dropped fly ball by Stratton that drifted into the outfield.
The Lions weren't discouraged, however. Given the way they'd hit the ball all night, they entered the bottom half of the inning planning on winning.
"We knew we could hang with them," Terrill said. "Their pitching started lacking, so with a score of 14-12, when you're putting runs on the board like that, you know you can score."
Matt McMillin and Bayless opened the inning with strikeouts, though. Mohan cranked a double and brought Wagner to the plate with the tying run, but Wagner flew out to center field to end the game.
"I really thought we were going to go win it," Andrews said. "They're gutty kids. It's never over. I can tell with these guys. They're going to keep battling and keep hitting the baseball, and as long as we do that, we're in good shape. We've just got to fine-tune some stuff."
Terrill said he was impressed with the way the Lions hit during the first outing of the season.
"To put scores up like we did both games, it shows our entire team can hit the ball," he said. "We can put the bat on the ball and get runs scored."
Lansing (1-1 overall, 1-0 Kaw Valley League) next plays at 4 p.m. Monday at home against Turner.