Lake (13-7) took an early lead and held Green's (15-8) offense in check to secure a 8-2 win in the Div. I sectional final round of the playoffs at Green Thursday.
Justin Wagler was the star of the game for the Blue Streaks, as it was his two-run home run in first inning that got them off to a good start. He also earned a save by pitching three scoreless innings in relief of Wes Kemp, whose RBI double scored the third run in the first that would eventually stand as the margin of victory.
The early offense was a welcome sight for Lake head coach Mike Parker.
“I think it was important for us to have the lead the whole game because I kind of kept Green on the defensive, on their heels. They weren't as aggressive as the usually are and think that really helped us,” Parker said. “Wagler's two-run home run, freshman Damian Maglione had that double last inning, Wes Kemp had the third run knocked in with two outs in the first and that was huge.”
Green had opportunities in the early going to take the lead and possibly take command of the game, but just couldn't get the big hit with runners in scoring position, particularly with two outs.
In the second inning, after Jordan McBride hit an RBI double high off the right field wall and Evan Steel knocked in a run with a single. The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game at three with a single, but Ron Brant struck out swinging for the only out he would make on the afternoon.
Green looked to score the next inning as Mazen Hasan reached second with one out and the heart of the lineup approaching. But Mark Zimmerman was retired on a check swing bouncer back to the pitcher and following an intentional walk to Hunter Handel, Evan Keeslar lined out to right to end the threat.
The Bulldogs last real chance to tie the game was in the fourth after Brant doubled to put runners on second and third with two outs. Hasan worked the count to 3-2, but then chased a ball above the letters to short circuit another rally.
Beyond that point, the Blue Streaks pitching and defense dominated while the offense put it out of reach.
“Sometimes in baseball the ball just doesn't bounce your way. They got the timely hits when they need them and we made a few mistakes and they really made us pay for it,” Green coach Jon Wallace said.
The outfield play for Lake was nothing short of phenomenal, as there were a number of hard hit balls to both center and right field that were handled by the athletic Blue Streak outfielders.
Page 2 of 2 - “Our pitchers Kemp and Wagler pitched very well and I thought our defense played really well tonight too,” Parker said.
Offensively, the Blue Streaks capitalized on Green's mistakes.
With two outs in the sixth, Green senior Robb Aigler mishandled a slow ground ball at first to keep the inning going. Then, after a wild pitch advanced the runner to second base, freshman Damian Maglione stepped up and lined an RBI single into left center to buffer the lead at 4-2.
Lake pulled away in the seventh after starting the inning with a single and a double. Runs scored on a wild pitch, an error on the the second baseman and a two-out two-run double by Andrew Heiser to put the final nails in the coffin.
Brant finished 2-for-3 in the losing effort for Green.
Maglione finished 3-for-4 with three RBI and Wagler was 2-for-3 with the home run, a double and two RBI for Lake.
Lake followed a simple strategy to victory.
“Getting out fast and letting our two great pitchers pitch,” said Parker.
For Green, a strong run in the second half of the season didn't translate into the type of postseason success they were expecting.
“Overall, we just didn't hit the ball the way we needed to hit today and the ones we did hit hard were right at people, so that's baseball and in a one-and-done situation that happens to you sometimes,” Wallace said.
Lake’s advances to the district semi-final, with their next game being against Hoover at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Thurman Munson Stadium. If they win, they will take on the Jackson/Perry winner at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday back at Thurman Munson Stadium for the district championship.