LEIPER’S FORK – After rallying for a win Monday, the Grace Christian Academy baseball team stunned and swept Battle Ground Academy with a 10-0 victory in 4 1/2 innings – spurred by back-to-back five-run innings – on Tuesday.
The Lions were fresh off a 7-5 win at BGA and eager to return home to prove that luck had nothing to with their previous comeback. GCA unleashed a dominant defensive display at “The Clyde” at Hillsboro-Leiper’s Fork Recreation Center Fields.
“Defensively we’ve been pretty solid in turning a lot of double plays,” said GCA coach Brad Myers. “To win in our league you’re going to have to play defense, squeak out runs in any way you can and I’m just so proud of our guys for holding tough tonight and last night and showing that hard work pays off.”
The game jumped out with both teams appearing evenly matched, neither being able to score throughout the first two innings despite having several runners on base. The Lions routinely earned base hits, but a pop fly and a strikeout sputtered any hopes of a growing offense.
BGA loaded the bases in the top of the third with two outs, but GCA pitcher Brock Arender appeared calm and collected as he picked up a strikeout – one of five on the night for the lefty.
“Our team is such a hard-working team defensively – we’ve been rolling double plays all year,” said Arender. “With this defense behind me I wasn’t worried about who was on base so much as how I can strike this guy out or keep fighting to grab a ground ball and make that play to get us back up at bat.”
The coolness that Arender had felt on the mound faded as BGA’s Brayden Iverson began throwing. Through a mixture of base hits, walks and batters hit by the pitcher, GCA had once again found itself with the bases loaded. Sophomore Parker Wyatt stepped up to the plate and dialed in a line drive hit between third and second base enough to draw the first run of the game by Trace Philips for a 1-0 lead, though BGA was able to tag out one Lions’ runner. On the next at bat Jordan Carter and Wyatt stole third and second respectively on a catcher’s error and with another walk, the bases were reloaded.
A string of walks led to Carter and Wyatt making their way home to push the lead to 3-0 and a freshly loaded set of bases. The Lions’ third inning scoring spree was cut short after Dean Bechman sent the ball rebounding off of the middle back wall bringing Jackson Sleeper and Cade Fuller home for a 5-0 advantage.
Arender retired the order next. He allowed four hits and walked five to go with his five Ks on the mound.
In the bottom of the fourth and coming off an error-riddled third, BGA switched pitching duties to second baseman A.J. McLemore. While McLemore attempted to slow the Lions offense there appeared to be nothing stopping GCA’s scoring stampede. McLemore threw a fastball, but it was recognized early by Gunner Haskins who strung the ball along the third-base line and over the fence for a three-run homerun. This provided catcher Blake Barton with his first run and Carter with his second of the day. Barton closed 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and single.
“I hit it and I looked up and at first I didn’t think it was gonna go, but once I saw that outfielder stop running I knew it was good to go,” said Fuller. “Our team made crucial plays tonight and getting that win over coach’s old team was a sweet victory.”
Shortly afterward Fuller propelled a homer of his own directly down the first-base line, mirroring Haskins’ big hit. The deep shot provided the final score.
“I knew I was a little early on the pitches tonight, but as soon as I hit I got the barrel on it and with the runner on second that was all she wrote,” said Fuller.
The Wildcats were sat down with a string of strikeouts to end the contest by run-rule. Ryan Casimier collected two of BGA’s four hits to lead the Wildcats, who forfeited all seven runs against GCA on Monday in the top of the sixth.
Myers and GCA improved to 7-7 overall and 1-3 in league play and will stay home to face Goodpasture on Thursday. BGA (4-3, 1-1) hits the road to take on Zion Christian Academy in Columbia on Friday.