Like the steady rain that fell throughout Northside’s game against LaGrange on Monday, the Patriots just wouldn’t go away.
After falling behind by four runs twice, in the fifth and sixth innings, Northside battled back to force extra innings and eventually topped the Grangers 8-7 in eight. The Patriots scored a run in the fourth, two in the fifth, three in the sixth, and one each in the seventh and eighth to pick up a crucial Region 1-5A victory.
While Northside is not battling LaGrange for seeding in the region, the win was important because it allows the Patriots to control their own destiny heading into showdowns with Columbus on Thursday and Friday. They are 12-3 in region play this year, tied in the loss column with the Blue Devils (10-3). A Thursday-Friday sweep of Columbus would clinch the region title for Northside.
“Every game is big, but this one ended up being huge,” Northside coach Dee Miller said after Monday’s win. “To be able to come back and score late, it’s just big, that’s all I can say. It gives us an opportunity to compete for a region title this week.”
The opportunity nearly swung in Columbus’ favor, as a Northside loss on Monday would have instead given the Blue Devils an opportunity to clinch this week.
Northside gave up its first two runs of a game, breaking ties of 0-0 in the third and 1-1 in the fifth, on infield singles that brought LaGrange’s David Sweat all the way around to score from second. The first time, Jake Farrar hit a sharp grounder to second that took a high hop, tipping off of second baseman Seth Shadix’s glove and bouncing a few feet away. The speedy Sweat beat the throw to score the game’s first run.
The second time, Ben Anderson hit another hot shot to Shadix, who again got a glove on the ball as he dove to his right but just couldn’t reel it in. Again, Sweat came around to score. That run compounded into more problems for the Patriots, as two errors and a hit batter in the inning led to four total runs for the Grangers. LaGrange capped off the inning with a bases-loaded double by Willis Kemp that cleared the bases and made it 5-1.
After the Patriots came back with two runs in the bottom half on a two-RBI single by Chantler Valero, LaGrange again took a four-run lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Jake Howard and Farrar.
But the bats didn’t slow down for Northside.
After a strikeout to open the sixth, the Patriots recorded three straight hits, singles by Kenny Harrell and Tyler Pace and an RBI double by Dalton Bradford. Marcus Eberhart brought home another run on a sacrifice fly, and Alex Royal plated one more with an RBI single to make it 7-6 after six. Harrell drove in the game-tying run in the seventh on a single, and Drew Haywood ended things with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
“W didn’t play well early, but we played well late,” Miller said. “We played well enough to win. They kept fighting, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Pitcher Sam Kyte, who came on in relief of Haywood in the sixth inning, worked three strong innings to get the win for Northside. He allowed two hits and one earned run and set down the last seven batters he faced to keep the Patriots alive.
“He came in and threw strikes,” Miller said. “He did what he’s done all year. He gets guys out and gives our offense a chance.”
Northside plays next at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Columbus.
Northside 8, LaGrange 7, 8 innings
Monday at Northside
WP: Sam Kyte. LP: CJ Harmon. Top hitters: Northside, Alex Royal 1-4, RBI, Chantler Valero 3-5, 2B, 2 RBIs, Drew Haywood 1-3, RBI, Seth Shadix 2-4, RBI, Kenny Harrell 2-3, RBI, Tyler Pace 2-3, Dalton Bradford 1-3, 2B, RBI, Marcus Eberhart 1-2, 2B, RBI. Records: LaGrange, 12-9, 7-6; Northside 17-5, 12-3. Next: LaGrange, Thursday at Hardaway; Northside, Thursday at Columbus.