The Weatherford Christian School Lions recorded four of their seven hits in the sixth inning of Monday’s area playoff game against the Greenville Christian Eagles at Brock High School, scoring four runs en route to a 6-2 win.
WCS started slow at the plate, going three-up, three-down in each of the first two innings.
Luckily, the tandem of Lions’ starting pitcher Ethan Smith (nine strikeouts) and catcher Jaxon Foland kept the contest close, holding Greenville Christian to two runs through four innings.
The Eagles did manage six hits against Smith, however, Lions’ Head Coach Cleg Smith said his starter did well throwing strikes and Greenville Christian simply made good contact at the plate.
[Ethan] was in the strike zone all day long, and if you look at those first two innings, [Greenville Christian’s] hits were not hard-hit balls. They were choppers and little bloop singles that found a hole.
“So that’s the most frustrating thing you can do as a pitcher, is to have good command and throw good pitches and the ball just bounces funny.
“But as long as we’re not losing what we call the freebie war, which is hit batsmen, walks or errors, we stay in ball games. And that’s what our guys did Monday. They stayed in it, they didn’t get frustrated and I thought they did a good job of staying in the strike zone.”
Fellow Lion Andrew Couser took the mound in relief late in the top of the fifth inning, throwing six strikeouts of his own.
Smith also credited Foland for being a solid on-field leader behind home plate and helping both Smith and Couser maximize their pitches.
“Jaxon is the guy who keeps them in the strike zone when they do make bad pitches,” Smith said.
“He blocks balls like a madman behind the plate. When there’s a questionable pitch, he does a great job of framing those pitches.”
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, before adding another run in the top of the third.
The Lions got on the board in the bottom of the same frame, with Logan Perkin driving in teammate Blake Heid on an RBI single to right field, before the team added another run in the fourth.
Tied at two heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, WCS needed a spark at the plate.
The Lions got it, with Perkin getting things started with a single to third base.
RBI singles from [Bryson] Smith and Ethan Suss (who later stole home in the same inning) and an RBI double from [Ethan] Smith put WCS in front, 6-2.
Perkin, [Bryson] Smith and Suss led the team’s offense, each collecting two hits.
Smith said despite the Lions’ slow start at the plate, they remained patient and made the most of their opportunities late in the game.
“We were really flat early on,” Smith said.
“That guy kind of kept us off balance with his curveball, and I felt like early on, we didn’t have a very good approach at the plate. But we buy into trying to have quality at bats where it may not always equate to base hits early in a game, but as we work pitchers and get into deeper counts, generally we get some balls to hit.
“And sure enough, as the pitcher got tired, he gave us some pitches to hit, and those guys did a good job of squaring up baseballs. Some of those balls found some holes and we were fortunate enough to score some runs.”
The area round win gained added meaning considering the Lions’ overwhelming number of underclassmen on the roster, Smith said.
“We’ve got 11 players out there,” Smith said.
“We’ve got one sophomore and nine freshmen. I’ve made them try to play like juniors and seniors all year long. I just won’t give them the mindset that they’re allowed to make freshman mistakes. We can’t afford it.
“And so every game we go out, we’re playing against the juniors and seniors.
“I’ve asked them to play like juniors and seniors and they really have answered the call.
“And it’s interesting to me, sometimes I have to have perspective. [Brock Head Baseball Coach] Hart Hering said for freshmen, they don’t really play like freshmen. And that was one of the ultimate compliments I think to my guys, was that another coach recognized that. They don’t back down from the competition.”
The Lions get another chance to compete this season, as the team is set to play the Longview Christian Heritage Sentinels in the regional round at 6 p.m. Friday at a site yet to be determined.