LAGRANGE – As the LaGrange Grangers prepared to take their swings in the bottom of the fifth inning of Thursday’s home game against Spalding County, they found themselves locked in a tie game.
By the time the Grangers were done hitting in the inning, they had a seven-run lead, and they went on to claim a 9-2 victory in their first regular-season game under new head coach David Smart.
LaGrange beat Callaway 8-0 last week in a preseason game.
The Grangers were up 2-0 in Thursday’s game, but the Jaguars fought back to pull even after scoring a run in the top of the fifth.
The good feelings for the Jaguars were short-lived.
Eleven LaGrange batters came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, including David Sweat, who had two hits and three RBIs in the inning.
Jake Howard, who entered the game in the third inning in relief of starter Jake Farrar, threw 4 1/3 innings to get the win, and Matthew Anderson pitched a scoreless seventh inning to finish things off.
Offensively, Sweat had a big day for the Grangers with three hits and three RBIs, and Matthew Anderson also had an RBI hit.
The Grangers scored their first run when Howard singled, stole second and later scored on an error, and the lead grew to 2-0 when Anderson reached on a single and scored on Sweat’s base hit.
The Jaguars got one of those runs back in the top of the third inning, and Howard entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs.
Howard, a senior right-hander, got a strikeout to end the threat, and LaGrange maintained a 2-1 lead.
Spalding County pushed the tying run across in the fifth inning, and it had the go-ahead run on third base.
LaGrange catcher Champ Willis made a nice stop on a ball in the dirt to save a run, and Howard got the strikeout to strand the runner on third.
The Grangers broke it open in their half of the fifth, and they did it with four hits, two walks, and two hit batters.
Sweat got things started with a double, and after moving to third on an error, he scored on a Howard groundout, and LaGrange was back on top.
After Ben Anderson was hit by a pitch, Jake Farrar followed with a base hit, and the Grangers were in business with two men on and two outs.
LaGrange then managed to score two runs on a wild pitch, with Ben Anderson and pinch-runner Amad Ogletree both coming home when the ball got away from the catcher, and the lead was 5-2.
Willis was hit by a pitch and Larkin Easterwood walked, and Matthew Anderson’s RBI single brought in another run to make it 6-2.
Willis Kemp walked to load the bases, and all three runs scored on Sweat’s second hit of the inning, and LaGrange’s lead was 9-2.
Matthew Anderson relieved Howard in the top of the seventh, and he got a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the game.
LaGrange will look to move to 2-0 when it visits Central-Phenix City on Saturday.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports