By Kevin Eckleberry firstname.lastname@example.org
March 25, 2014
When his name was called, Logan Hood took off his sweatshirt, grabbed a bat, and got ready to hit.
The LaGrange Grangers were trailing the Columbus Blue Devils in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s game when head coach Todd Herrington decided to send Hood in as a pinch-hitter.
“About 20 seconds before I got up there, I had a sweatshirt and sunglasses on, and I had to rip that off and get up there,” Hood said.
When Hood stepped into the batter’s box, the Grangers had already pushed two runs across in the inning, cutting what had been a three-run deficit at the start of the inning to one.
The bases were loaded with two outs for Hood, and he fell behind 1-2 against Columbus pitcher Will Kilgore.
“I’ve played with that guy (Kilgore) like my whole life. I know him pretty well,” Hood said. “I just looked for something I could hit the other way. I got it, and I took advantage of it.”
Hood drove the two-strike pitch into right field for a base hit, and the game was tied 3-3.
The Grangers went on to score three more runs in the inning, giving them a 6-3 lead.
Columbus scored two runs in the top of the seventh and had the tying run at third, but Jake Howard got Russell Forthofer to fly out to right field Chas Pardue for the final out, and LaGrange held on for the 6-5 victory.
The Grangers (6-7 overall) improved to 2-0 in Region 5-AAAA with the big win over the Blue Devils.
“It obviously feels really good to beat those guys,” Herrington said. “That was a great team win. Offensively, defensively, and on the mound, everybody contributed.”
The Blue Devils scored a single run in the fourth inning, and two more runs in the fifth inning to build the 3-0 lead.
The Grangers weren’t having much success against Columbus starter Will Bice, but Herrington said everyone stayed positive.
“We didn’t stay down. We stayed in the ballgame and competed and gave ourselves a chance,” Herrington said. “I was real proud of the whole team for that.”
Bice had retired nine straight hitters when the Grangers came to bat in their half of the sixth inning.
Bice got the first out of the inning on a groundout, and that’s when he ran into trouble.
Jackson Shelnutt got things started with a walk, and Logan Moody followed with a base hit.
Ben Anderson then walked, and the Grangers were in business with the bases loaded and no outs.
Jake Farrar worked the count full after falling behind, and he got the bat on the ball and drove it into the outfield.
Columbus’ center fielder charged forward and got there time in time to make a play, but he wasn’t able to hang onto the ball, and two runs scored on Farrar’s double, and the Grangers were within a run.
Columbus head coach Bobby Howard made the call to the bullpen, with Kilgore entering the game in relief of Bice.
Kilgore got a strikeout for the second out, and Pardue then walked to load the bases.
That’s when Hood got his chance, and he came through with the game-tying single.
“He shortened his swing up and took a nice hack at it,” Herrington said.
Next up for the Grangers was Logan Carson, and with the bases still loaded, he walked to bring in another run.
Hakeem Stargell then got hit by a pitch to drive in a run the hard way, and the Grangers had a 5-3 lead.
Shelnutt capped the rally with an infield single against new pitcher Jacob Pate to bring in the sixth and final run of the inning.
Shelnutt and Stargell each reached base twice in the inning.
“Early in the game, there were quick innings, two-pitch at-bats and stuff,” Hood said. “Everybody just started working the count, and we finally got to (Bice).”
Herrington was glad to see his team add on a couple of runs after taking the lead.
“You need to get all you can get, especially against a team like that,” Herrington said.
Turns out, those extra runs were crucial.
Carson, who had done a superb job in relief of Farrar, began the top of the seventh inning on the mound.
Alonzo Jones Jr. led off with a double and later scored on a wild pitch, and Nick Poskey and Kilgore then walked.
With the tying run on base, Herrington decided to put the game in Howard’s hands.
Howard, the starting catcher, said he just wanted to come in and throw strikes.
“I knew my defense would make plays,” Howard said.
Howard got a pop-out for the first out, and a groundout for the second out that scored the Blue Devils’ fifth run .
With two outs, Columbus had the tying run just 90 feet away, but Howard got the fly-out to end it.
“I was proud of Jake for coming in there and saying, here it is, and competing,” Herrington said.
LaGrange’s pitching was terrific, with Farrar, Carson and Howard holding their own against a potent Columbus lineup.
“We threw three different guys out there, and they all did a great job,” Herrington said. “We made an error or two behind them, but pretty much we played solid defense, and made the plays we needed to make. That’s what will win you ballgames.”
Herrington said pitching coach Jason Willis “is doing a great job with the pitching staff. Coach Willis called great pitches over there.”
Herrington was also extremely pleased with the way the offense performed after a tough game against Shaw on Friday.
“Coach (Lee) Phelps, he worked with these guys after the Shaw game. We had 14 outs that were pop-ups,” Herrington said. “It was pretty obvious we worked on it the past few days. Coach Phelps had a plan the past few days in practice, and we went to work hitting low and hard, and it paid off.”
LaGrange will hit the road on Thursday to face Alexander before returning home to face Fayette County on Friday.