By Jeffery Armstrong
For four and one-half innings on Thursday, the Riverdale Raiders' baseball team made all the right moves against the Lovejoy Wildcats, taking a 4-0 lead after their half of the fifth.
The Wildcats finally showed up from the fifth inning on and rallied to beat their Region 4-AAAAA rivals 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh at home.
"Riverdale challenged us and for the first four innings, we didn't answer their challenge," said Lovejoy head coach Craig Chatman. "We rebounded well and got some clutch hits to win the game."
Riverdale was aggressive from the outset against Lovejoy pitcher Anthony Routh. They scored a run in four of their first five innings, scorching the ball in the process. Raiders' center fielder Rod Copeland (2-for-4, one RBI) hit a run-scoring triple in the second inning for a 2-0 lead and in the next inning, right fielder Trey Hooks (2-for-3, one RBI) smashed a double to score another run.
Riverdale had 10 hits in the game, with several Raiders getting two hits.
Raiders pitcher Arnold Oakman coasted through the first four innings. Lovejoy batters were anxious at the plate and took themselves out of innings. In the Lovejoy second, the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs. Routh popped up the first pitch for the last out of the inning.
Routh managed to atone for his second-inning popup in the fifth. He doubled to score shortstop Melvin Perdue, who walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Brandon Perry doubled home Routh's pinch-runner and Stephen Douglas followed with a two-run home run to tie the score at four.
"I calmed down, took some pitches and tried to find a good pitch to hit," Routh said.
Lovejoy made two stellar defensive plays in the sixth and seventh innings. Lovejoy catcher caught Riverdale's Rafael Rojas on a stolen base attempt in the sixth to thwart a rally. In the seventh, right fielder Jeremy Kostka gunned down the speedy Copeland, who tried to extend a single into a double, for the first out of the inning. Riverdale didn't score in either inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Routh doubled and Ethan Waters was intentionally walked. A wild pitch advanced both runners and Perry hit a shot to Raiders' shortstop Mike Flen, who bobbled the ball allowing Routh to score the winning run.
"You have to tip your hat to Lovejoy; we played hard but they battled back," said Raiders head coach Kelcey White. "They made one more play than we did." Routh went the distance, striking out eight, walking one and was 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Oakman gave up eight hits, walked two and struck out four Wildcats. He was also 2-for-4 with one RBI.