Horns face narrow last inning loss to Sullivan North Raiders
By Jonathan PleasantThe Longhorns faced a troubling last inning loss Wednesday on the road against the Sullivan North Golden Raiders. Managing to hold the lead all the way down to the bottom of the seventh, all it took was one final missed cue on a bunt to give North the one run they needed to pull ahead and make up for their earlier defeat at Johnson County.
The Longhorns were actually the first to get on the board, utilizing an error at the plate to start Blade Hampton on first. A sacrifice bunt from Logan Sargent pushed Hampton to second and a hit from Payton Fenner gave him first. Both runners advanced on a center field hit from Sam Thomas that gave him an RBI and was pushed to second by a hit from freshman Nick Whitener. Fenner, who was still on third, eventually reached home on a sacrifice fly from Jake Sutherland, but a third out left both Whitener and Thomas on base.
Thomas took the mound for Johnson County on the defensive end, throwing 56 strikes out of 86 total pitches. That resulted in two strikeouts, one of which kept North away from home plate through the first inning. The second inning was a direct reversal, with the Longhorns managing a second base drive for Adam Worley after a hit and a steal, but then facing two quick strikeouts before anything could be made of it. The Raiders had better luck, getting on base with a walk and a hit by the pitcher that both advanced on a couple good hits.
This pattern repeated yet again in the third and fourth innings with Sam Thomas landing a huge solo homer that bounced off the scoreboard at the top of the third and another run for freshman Daniel Livorsi, who got on base with a walk in the fourth. Worley eventually joined him, reaching as far as third, while Livorsi gave Blade Hampton an RBI. North was able to answer both of these runs as well using a couple of fielding errors in the fourth.
For Head Coach Pete Pavusek it was these types of simple mistakes and poor decisions that ultimately cost Johnson County the game. “We just didn’t execute,” Pavusek said. “We didn’t deserve it. We had our chances. Second and third, a runner at third and we didn’t come through as batter. You don’t come through in big situations you don’t deserve to win a ballgame. It’s just us not being in the game, not paying attention, not having any focus, maybe lack of desire. In a big situation you have to be ready to go whether you’re on the bench, in the game, batting, playing defense, whatever you’re doing you have to be in the game and some of us aren’t.”
The offensive situation that Pavusek referenced came in the fifth inning with the score tied at four. The Longhorns led off with a hit from Logan Sargent who eventually got caught out on his way to second. Nick Whitener followed up with a base after being hit by the pitcher and moved to second on a walk for Jake Sutherland. A wild pitch gave Whitener third and might have allowed him home had the risk been taken. A strikeout for Nathaniel Graybeal ended the inning without any actual progress.
Thomas did a good job pitching in the sixth, working several batters to a full count and keeping North away from home, but as fate would have it the Raider’s first batter coming into the seventh managed a good hit to take first. With the game on the line and no outs, North’s second batter attempted a bunt giving the first batter enough time to take advantage of a scrambling Johnson County infield to clear second and third, bringing it in for the game winning run 5-4.
Disappointed by the final outcome, Coach Pavusek didn’t have a whole lot to say about the game, but did commend Thomas for giving his team a fighting chance. “He didn’t have his best stuff but he battled,” Pavusek said. “He did what he needed to do to win the game. They’re always close ballgames Sullivan North and us. They’re always 4-3 or 5-4. In 2012 all four games were one run in the last inning. It was either 5-4 or 4-3 so we expected that.”