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'Sacrificial' Dogs chomp Gators

Stokes’ third sac fly of night lifts Camden to 8-7 victory

Posted: March 15, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Never has a soft pop fly to center looked prettier.
In an ugly game which saw Camden and visiting River Bluff evenly divide 12 errors, their pitchers issue four walks per side while CHS pitchers plunked three Gators, it was Lawson Stokes’ bases loaded, walk off sacrifice fly to center field which drove in Tyler Jordan with the game-winning run in the Bulldogs’ 8-7 victory on Friday night at American Legion Park.
Following Camden’s 6-4 loss to A.C. Flora on Tuesday to kick off the regular and Region 4-AAA season, this contest with the first-year Gators had a “must win” feel to it for Denny Beckley’s charges which did not want to fall to 0-2 in conference play.
As happy as he was to get a split against two of the league’s top teams in week one, Beckley was hardly impressed with what he witnessed on his home field.
“I don’t want to dwell on the negatives,” he said. “We played poorly and still won it … we’ll take it.
“I thought our kids really battled through some tough mental situations tonight. We knew we were playing badly and I think that was still in the back of our minds. But instead of flushing it and move to the next play, we were upset that we weren’t playing well; it kind of steamrolled to our making more and more mistakes. We have to do a better job to overcome that.”
This game had all the trappings of which team’s mistake(s) would hurt the most as leads were taken and vanished with a few swings of the bat. In the bottom of the seventh, however, no mistakes were made on the part of the hosts who received a leadoff infield single from Tyler Jordan, who beat the throw to the bag with a head first slide.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jordan had a pair of miscues which led to RB knotting things at seven. Beckley said he had a good feeling when his number nine hitter came to the plate to open the final frame.
“Tyler did a great job of getting on base,” Beckley said. “I kind of had a feeling that Tyler was going to get on base somehow and make up for his situation a little earlier. I had faith in him. We also put some running stuff on and, it got us out of a double play ball.”
Jordan was running on a pitch to Darius Smith whose grounder to third moved Jordan to second. With first base open, Cole Irick was intentionally walked by Brandon Tillmon to bring up Ross Hough, who worked his way to a conventional walk to jam the bags for Stokes whose fly ball to medium-depth centerfield brought Jordan in with the winning run. It was Stokes’ third sac fly of the game and the team’s fourth.
For Stokes, it was the junior’s second game-winning, walk-off RBI in a 4-AAA game. In last year’s regular season finale, his two-out, two-strike single to left gave the Dogs a 4-3 win over Chapin at American Legion Park.
“You could almost see Lawson becoming more relaxed at the plate in the past two games,” Beckley said of his clean-up hitter. “He realized his role in that situation and did a great job.”
The Gators opened the scoring in the top of the first with two outs in getting to CHS sophomore starter Will Abbott for an unearned run. That lead, as several others on this night would be, was short-lived as the Dogs reached RB starter Reece Burnett for a pair on their first go through.
Irick got aboard with a one-out passed ball on a third strike and quickly swiped second base. Hough followed by lining an RBI double to left. He would give the hosts a 2-1 lead when he trotted home from third on Austen Haney’s sac fly to right.
The Gators would get to Abbott for an unearned run in the second before taking a 3-2 lead in the third thanks to Walker McDowell’s two-out double to center which dove in Whit Warner, who reached when he was hit by a pitch.
Camden put some distance between itself and the guests with a three-run third which began when Smith’s grounder to shortstop was thrown away to first. Irick followed with a bunt single along the third base line. Hough, who had two of Camden’s six hits, followed suit with a bunt on which Aaron Adams’ throw to first went over the head of Sean Parsons. That allowed Smith to score from second and Irick to come around from first while Hough landed on third. Hough scored from there on Stokes’ sac fly to deep left to give the small-ball Dogs a 5-3 advantage.
We tried it, like we normally do, and they struggled with it and they kept struggling with it so we said, ‘Heck, why not (try it again?) It worked out for us,” Beckley said of the back-to-back bunts.
Camden’s momentum was stunted in the top of the fourth as the Gators hung up a three spot to take a 6-5 lead while chasing Abbott from the box in the process. Abbott was responsible for the first two runs before giving way to freshman Devin Beckley who gave up an RBI single to Warner before working his way out of a jam by getting McDowell to foul out to catcher Nick Tucker.
The Dogs regained the lead in the fifth by pushing two runs across on just one hit in an inning which was marred by Smith’s being thrown out while trying to score on a passed ball. Smith, who singled, advanced to third when Irick’s bunt single was thrown away for an error which left Irick standing on second. The passed ball allowed him to take third as Burnett was replaced on the mound by lefty Ryan Reynolds who promptly issued a walk to Hough after his wild pitch allowed Irick to knot things at 6-6.
Reynolds then flew a pickoff throw to first as Hough wound up on third on the error. He scored the go-ahead run on Stokes’ sac fly to left to give the Dogs a 7-6 lead.
The Gators got to Hough for the tying run in the top of the sixth. And with runners on first and second with one gone, Beckley called on Josh Hough. The right-hander got a quick strikeout and a harmless fly out to Ross Hough in center to keep things even.
Josh Hough, who suffered the loss in relief at A.C. Flora, worked a perfect seventh in fanning the first two batters to give him five outs in facing as many batters while picking up the win.
The victory was a confidence boost all the way around, Beckley said, when talking of Josh Hough’s relief stint which gave the Dogs a chance to win this one in regulation.
“It was a lot of relief for him after having a difficult outing (at Flora),” Beckley said. “I thought it was important for us to show confidence in Josh, too. That will help us later in the year.”
As will this win for the Bulldogs.

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