SULPHUR – Logan McIver held his framing position well after the final pitch of Lakeside’s fantastic season was controversially called a ball.
The final delivery from senior Gavin Jones came in a full-count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh with the 2A semifinal game tied at 5-5. The pitch went to the outside corner at the knees; the call truly could have gone either way.
The umpire signaled a ball, and the Welsh Greyhounds advanced to the state championship game with a 6-5 victory on a walk-off walk. A shocked and upset Warrior team, led by a group of six senior starters, walked off the field in Sulphur for the second consecutive season without that elusive state-championship feeling.
Still, these Warriors (21-18) have no reason to be ashamed. Lakeside trailed Welsh 5-0 entering the fifth inning only to embark on a 5-run rally to improbably tie the score. Senior Colton Carter battled his tail off on the mound, pitching 6 solid innings, allowing four hits and five runs while striking out five against a feisty Greyhounds lineup.
Three-straight singles by Jones, Carter and McIver with two outs got Lakeside going in the fifth inning and put some pressure on Welsh, who committed back-to-back errors on balls put in play by Hayden Humphrey and CJ Watts, allowing the Warriors to tie the score with two innings to play.
Both teams went down in order in the sixth inning before Lakeside got the go-ahead run to second base when McIver cranked a double into left field. The excitement of that hit was short-lived though, as Jayke Stewart grounded a ball to shortstop and McIver, who was trying to reach third on the play, was gunned down ending the threat.
It was one of a few crucial baserunning blunders by a typically solid baserunning team. On the day, the Warriors had six runners in scoring position that did not score.
Lakeside turned to Stewart to pitch the seventh needing three outs to get the contest into extra innings, but Stewart walked the first two batters and then issued a wild pitch, putting runners at third and second with no outs. After issuing an intentional walk to load the bases and create a force-out situation, Will Gray turned to Jones on the mound who threw three-straight balls to go 3-0 with the winning run at third base.
Jones showed some grit, tossing back-to-back strikes to make it a full count. Then came the final pitch, a good-looking fastball on the outer half that easily could have been called a strike; but it wasn’t.
Tears began to form in the eyes of Warrior players fully-aware of just how close they were. The Lakeside coaching staff correctly assured them they had nothing to be down about.
McIver led the Lakeside offense going 2-3 with a double and RBI, followed by Carter who was 2-4 with a pair of singles. Dalton Crumpler, Nathan Willis and Jones added singles for the Warrior offense.
Following back-to-back state tournament appearances, Lakeside enters what could hesitantly be called rebuilding mode with the departure of this senior class. Only Nathan Willis, Michael Watts, CJ Watts and Tanner Stewart return with much experience for next season. Still, with this coaching staff and the tradition of Lakeside rolling out great players, it would not be wise to count the Warriors out for another deep run looking ahead to 2019.