Valdosta Daily Times

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June 20, 2014

Finding a Groove

Lowndes overcomes slow start to clobber Cairo

VALDOSTA — The Lowndes High School bats aren’t where new coach Rusty Beale wants them so far.

But the Vikings pitchers kept visiting Cairo within distance Thursday in the first game of the South Georgia Diamond Brawl long enough for the hitters to find their rhythm in a 9-1 run-rule win at Noel George Field.

“For one, it’s summer so we’re not practicing everyday, so it’s just taking awhile to get back in the swing of things hitting,” Beale said. “We were aggressive, but we were still swinging at bad pitches.

“Once we settled down, we started hitting better pitches and that’s when good things started to happen for us.”

That turned out to be nearly four full innings Thursday on the first day of Lowndes’ three-day summer tournament. Cairo starter Parker Duncan limited the Vikings to just two hits through three innings before Zane Marshall singled to open the bottom of the fourth. Two outs later, he scored to tie the game at 1.

But that is when the Vikings found their groove. After Brooks Bennett drew a walk, five straight hits followed before the Syrupmakers escaped when the Vikings ran into an out on the basepaths. Before they did, though, Mark Felton doubled in a run to put Lowndes ahead for good before CJ Johnson and Hunter Luke followed with consecutive RBI singles to chase Duncan. Trent Viche then greeted Cairo reliever Jesse Miller with a single to center but Johnson was thrown out at home to end the inning.

“We’re a little pitching short today and Parker did a really good job until he just ran out of gas,” Cairo coach Ron Best said. “And when he did, they were a typical Lowndes team and just started blowing it out.

“Parker had real good outing in Atlanta last Thursday night, we had a 4-3 win up in Atlanta, and he was trying to put a couple good outings together in a row, and he did well until he just ran out of gas.”

Lowndes, though, kept on rolling in the fifth as the first seven hitters reached including a triple from Mason Miller to open the inning. The Vikings also drew four walks in the frame, which ended on a bases-loaded walk with two outs.

“Hitting is contagious,” Beale said. “Everybody that’s been in the game knows that it just takes one hit for everybody to get going.

“We’re just stressing to them that we have to hit the fastballs that are in the zone. We were waiting to hit the curveballs that were later in the zone. Hitting is all about hitting good pitches and you have to keep it out of the air, and that’s what we started doing the last few innings.”

Those first three innings before Lowndes’ offense got untracked it was Cairo that was close to blowing the game open. The Syrupmakers stranded seven runners the first four innings — leaving two on in the first, two more in the fourth and the bases loaded in the third. While leaving plenty of opportunities out there, Cairo did grab the lead in the third when Koby Pyrz was hit by a Cody Harwell pitch with the bases loaded and two outs. But Harwell then struck out the next hitter to escape the game.

“We had baserunners on those first couple innings but could only get one run instead of maybe three or so runs,” Best said. “We just couldn’t get the big hit at the right times, but that’s a credit to their pitchers. They beared down and got us out when they needed to.”

Cody Mason did likewise an inning later, working around a hit batter and a walk to keep the Vikings down just one.

“I’m pleased with our pitching,” Beale said. “Cody Harwell and Cody Mason, all summer, have done a great job. And that’s what we’ll need for next year once the season gets here.

“It’s a big plus to see them pitching so well. And to get out of jams when things aren’t going their way. We’re still pitching and getting out of those jams.”

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