Luella starting pitcher Kendall Hill threw six strong innings in the Lions’ 5-2 win at Ola on Monday in a non-region game.
The staple of Luella baseball through the season’s first 12 games — solid pitching, sound defense and a productive top of the lineup — was enough for the Lions on Monday in a 5-2 victory at Ola in a non-region game.
No. 3-ranked Luella (10-2, 5-0 Region 2-AAAAA) got six strong innings from senior pitcher Kendal Hill, a key double play in the sixth inning and seven hits out of the Lions’ Nos. 1-4 hitters.
All of which helped Luella bounce back from Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Crisp County.
That loss brought to the surface Luella’s singular shortcoming. Against premier competition, the Lions have struggled to produce runs. They’ve relied on a strong 1-2-3 punch on the mound in Hill, Matt Kelley and Tennessee signee Vincent Jackson, all lefthanders, to keep them in games, and hope a retooled lineup can produced enough runs.
Monday was another example. Reise McDaniel led off the game with a bunt single, Jackson lined a single to right field two batters later and first baseman Eric Pape drove them in with a two-run double in the gap. Just like that, Luella was up 2-0.
And that’s how it stayed, as the Lions went scoreless for the next four innings.
“Honestly, I’ve been a little frustrated that we haven’t hit yet,” Luella coach Andy Cooper said. “We’ve been scratching out wins, but against formidable opponents, we still haven’t hit like we need to to advance in the state playoffs, win a region championship and accomplish all our goals.”
Luella broke through in the sixth inning. Pape led off with his second double, and scored on a double by designated hitter Terrence Worthy. Two batters later, Worthy scored on an error. John Goodman added another run with an RBI double in the top of the seventh.
That was all Hill needed. Back after missing nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury, Hill was in command Monday. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, retiring 11 out of 12 batters to start the game.
When Ola (7-4, 3-1 Region 4-AAAA) had runners on first and third with two out in the fifth, he got a strikeout to end the threat. When Ryan John led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Luella tried twice to turn a double play. They settled for a fielder’s choice the first try, then got the real thing one batter later to end the inning.
Hill’s night ended when he couldn’t get out of the seventh inning, allowing consecutive singles. Junior Cody Martin kept the damage to a minimum, allowing just two runs to score, both charged to Hill.
“I was feeling real good,” Hill said. “It was hot, but I felt real good.”
Luella got production from all its expected sources — Hill, Jackson, Pape and Tulane signee Chase Scott, who went 3-for-4.
“[Hill] is a good pitcher,” Ola coach Beau Edwards said. “He threw the ball well. They’re a solid team. They’re going to be a team that’s probably going to go deep in the state tournament. If they don’t, it would surprise me.”
Lovejoy 13, Creekside 10
The Wildcats won for the eighth straight time to improve to 7-0 in Region 4-AAAA with Monday's victory on the road.
Brandon Chisolm got the win in relief after pitching 5 1/3 innings while giving up only one run and striking out 10 batters.
The damaging blow in the game came with Lovejoy trailing 9-8 in the third, and Drew Nicholson hit a bases loaded double to score two runs for the Wildcats to take the lead for good.
Jonesboro 13, Morrow 3
Dereon London was the winner pitcher as the Cardinals improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in Region 4-AAAA with the win.