SUMRALL – Graham Crawford gave his mother the perfect Mother’s Day gift Sunday.
The senior catcher sent a pitch to right field for a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, and it gave the Bobcats the 3-2 win over West Lauderdale in Game 1 of the 4A South State series. More importantly, though, the Bobcats took a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 set for 7 p.m. Monday in Collinsville.
Because of Crawford’s big night, Sunday could easily go down as one of the best Mother’s Days for the Crawford family.
“Absolutely,” Barron Crawford, Graham’s mother, said. “He did awesome. He has always tried to do well under pressure and I think tonight he delivered. He’s a leader on this team and I’m so proud of him.”
With the game on the line in extra innings, Crawford was calm during his at-bat. The bases were loaded with one out, and all he had to do was poke a pitch deep enough to bring Hayden Barrett home for the win.
Barron, however, wasn’t as calm as his son.
“I was nervous. Very nervous,” she said. “But, I have confidence in him. I always do. He did a great job and I’m so proud.”
Sumrall loaded the bases in the top of the ninth thanks to three straight walks by two West Lauderdale pitchers. Both Barrett and Zane Berry were walked on four straight balls, while Dannis Jackson had one strike called during his at-bat in-between Barrett and Berry’s base on balls.
Crawford didn’t take his bat off his shoulder for the first four pitches, but in a 3-1 count, he wanted to win the game with a swing and not walk. Crawford has a .482 on-base percentage this season, so he’s a smart hitter. If the pitch wasn’t where he wanted it, he’d gladly take a walk to bring the game-winning run home.
“The first pitch, (Sumrall coach Larry Knight) didn’t give a take (sign), and I was very surprised about that,” Crawford said. “I was looking for something dead-red and something to drive out of the infield. Even though I was little early on that ball, it got the job done and that’s all that matters.”
Crawford finished the night 1-for-4, but his only hit tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning to finish the night with three RBI.
West Lauderdale jumped up 2-0 off two solo home runs, and the Bobcats were looking for an answer. West Lauderdale starter, Southern Miss signee Ben Ethridge, limited Sumrall to just three hits through the first four innings, but the home team loaded the bases in the fifth off an error in the outfield off the bat of Tanner Morgan, a Dannis Jackson single and a walk by Berry.
Crawford took the first pitch for a ball before hitting a hard grounder past the West Lauderdale second baseman to score two runs.
“I knew somebody was going to have to come up with a big hit,” he said. “I knew they had good arms and somebody was going to have to come up with that one big hit that gets the game done. I’m just happy it was me.”
Ethridge struck out six and walked three in his seven innings of work. He also allowed the two unearned runs off six hits.
“We knew going in there weren’t going to be a lot (of hits),” Knight said. “They have two of the top pitchers in the state. We saw them last year. We know all about them and their numbers speak for themselves.”
The two teams would go scoreless through the next two innings to send the game to extra innings, and that’s when Knight used some strategy to manipulate the game. Junior John Cody Stogner entered to pitch with two outs in the sixth inning, and in the eighth inning, Knight put sophomore Kros Sivley on the mound and Stogner in left field.
With a West Lauderdale runner on first and a left-handed batter at the plate, Knight wanted his left-handed pitcher to closely watch the base runner while pitching against the lefty at the dish. Since Stogner stayed the game, he was available to reenter to pitch later.
“With them having the go-ahead run at first, I wanted (Sivley) on the mound, because it’s hard to steal off of him,” Knight said. “If he would have gotten to second base, I probably would have pulled him (and brought back Stogner).”
To make things more interesting, Stogner hadn’t seen any varsity playing time in the left field this season, and Sivley’s fourth pitch was sent to him for the second out. Sivley got a ground ball during the next at-bat to end the frame.
Stogner reentered to pitch the ninth inning and the Knights loaded the bases with one out. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for West Lauderdale to retake the lead, but Stogner recorded a strikeout and a fly out to center to set up the bottom of the ninth finish.
Stogner allowed no runs and two hits in his 2.2 innings of work. He also struck out four with two walks. Senior Hunter Barrett got the start in Game 1, and he allowed two earned runs off five hits with two strikeouts and a walk. The solo home runs were from Braden Luke in the first inning and Tanner Parker in the third.
Due to his pitch count, Stogner won’t be available to pitch Monday, but he can if the series goes to three games on Tuesday. Barrett is done for the series, while Sivley, senior Halen Sanford and senior Billy Garrity are options for Game 2.
West Lauderdale’s projected Game 2 starter, Kameron Partridge, pitched just 13 pitches Sunday, so he’s available to come back Monday. Ethridge is the only pitcher who can’t pitch Monday, and he’s also unavailable for the rest of the series.