In the first of a daunting four-game stretch in the final week of Region 1-AAAAA play, the Hardaway baseball team was unable to get a much-needed victory.
The Hawks lost 10-6 to LaGrange at home, falling into a tie at 9-6 in region play. Remaining on the schedule this week: two games against first-place Columbus and one against second-place Harris County.
“We have to take it like it’s the playoffs,” Hawks coach Chris Gilstrap said. “I told our guys back last year that it would come down to the last week. I could already tell.”
Hardaway still came into the week with an outside shot at a region championship. If it had won all four of its games, it would have leapfrogged the Blue Devils and Tigers for first place in the region. Tuesday’s loss has it just hoping to hang on to a playoff berth.
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The Hawks benefited from three errors, a couple hit batters and a wild pitch in the third inning to briefly take a lead over the Grangers at 5-4. It scored five in the frame, only one of which was earned off of LaGrange pitcher Tristain Daugherty.
Outside of that inning, Daugherty had Hardaway fooled. He pitched all seven innings, throwing just 85 pitches and striking out five batters. He allowed six runs on six hits, but only two runs were earned.
“Their pitcher — he’s good,” Gilstrap said. “I’m glad we don’t have to see him again. You see him in warmups and he’s throwing the ball and you don’t really see how he’s going to be able to get you out, but then seven innings later, he’s got the win and your guys only have five or six hits.”
On the other side, Hardaway simply couldn’t slow the Grangers’ bats.
All told, LaGrange recorded six doubles and 15 total hits in the game. In a week where Hardaway will be forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel for pitchers because of four back-to-back games, Hawks starter Marcell Byrd was forced to take one for the team and pitch into the seventh inning as LaGrange piled on four runs in the second, two in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the sixth and one more in the seventh.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times, too,” Gilstrap said. The team had only one official error, but did have a handful of situations where the ball was held too long or thrown to the wrong person.
LaGrange was led by Jake Howard, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, Logan Moody, who also had a couple doubles and three RBIs, and David Sweat, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Hardaway got two hits out of Sam Anthony and a double and RBI from Blake Rupp.
Now, Gilstrap told his team that it has to forget about Tuesday’s loss and look forward to the next three days, which could make or break its season.
“We have to keep our heads up,” Gilstrap said. “We can’t let this run into tomorrow or Thursday or Friday. We’ve got to go back out and get some wins.
“We can’t fold up shop. If we do, we’ll be sitting at home in the playoffs.”
Tuesday at Hardaway
LaGrange 040 212 1—10 15 4
Hardaway 005 000 1—6 6 1
WP—Tristain Daugherty. LP—Marcell Byrd. Leading hitters—LaGrange, Jake Howard 3-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, Logan Moody 3-4, 2 2Bs, 3 RBIs, R, Larkin Easterwood 1-4, 2B, RBI, Jackson Shelnutt 2-4, 2 Rs, David Sweat 3-3, RBI, 3 Rs; Hardaway, Sam Anthony 2-4, R, Blake Rupp 1-4, 2B, RBI, 2 Rs. Records—LaGrange, 11-11, 9-6; Hardaway, 15-8, 9-6. Next—LaGrange, Wednesday at Harris County; Hardaway, Wednesday at Columbus.