Pacer baseball wins play-in game

by: VERN UYETAKE Nick Sota, right, gets congratulated at the plate by Tyler Smith after Sota knocked a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning in Lakeridge’s 5-2 win over Crater.

After a season where it didn't seem to get many breaks, the Lakeridge baseball team earned a trip to the state playoffs with a solid play-in victory over Crater 5-2 on Tuesday.

The Pacers fell behind early in the game when Crater hit a two-out, two-run home run off of Levi Rudolph.

But Lakeridge responded quickly. In the bottom of the second, Nick Sota led off with a single and Tyler Smith sacrificed him to second base.

Following an infield single from Brandon Crane, Sota scored on a wild pitch.

Rudolph would then help his own cause with an RBI single to plate Crane and tie the game.

Lakeridge took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the third. Tyler Borgeson led off with a single and Tyler Binns sacrificed him to second.

Lakeridge played small ball all game long, forcing Crater's defense to make plays.

"Their guy had three good pitches so we knew we were going to bunt a lot and try to push runs across," coach Colin Griffin said.

Logan Henry then knocked in the go-ahead run with an RBI double.

The Pacers threatened to blow the game open in the bottom of the fourth. Matt Reyer led off with a single, Rudolph reached on his bunt and Spencer Pearl reached on an error to load the bases with no outs.

But Lakeridge couldn't convert and left the bases loaded without scoring.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Pacers were able to tack on some insurance.

Sota led off with a solo home run to left field.

"Everyone just kind of stands back and is looking for Sota to do that," Griffin said.

Smith then drew a walk and Crane laid down a sacrifice bunt.

A groundout moved Smith to third and he would score on a balk by Crater's relief pitcher.

In the top of the sixth, Crater started to get to Rudolph who settled down well after giving up the early home run.

Crater knocked a lead-off single and drew a one-out walk. The Comets then knocked a base hit to centerfield. Smith hit the cut-off man and Rudolph threw to Pearl at home.

Pearl dove to the plate and made a terrific tag to gun the runner down in a momentum-changing play. Rudolph would then get out of the inning with a strikeout.

Lakeridge's defense, which it struggled with at times this year, was terrific on Tuesday.

"It was flawless. There were two or three huge momentum swings that helped us," Griffin said.

In the seventh inning, Rudolph yielded a lead-off walk and the next batter hit a long drive to the right field wall.

Borgeson jumped and appeared to make the catch. But the ball was dropped and he quickly threw toward the infield. In the confusion, Crater's runner at first base was forced out at second and Rudolph got the next two outs to preserve the win.

Lakeridge will now await its first-round playoff opponent in a game that will be played on Monday.