By Tony Tsoukalas / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and the Knights finish on top of the District 5 standings –– somethings never change.
The West Lauderdale baseball team clinched its 11th-straight district championship, as Ryan Lane pitched the Knights to a 7-0 win over Newton County Friday night.
Lane pitched all seven innings for West Lauderdale, giving up five hits and striking out six batters. At the plate, the junior was just as heroic, lacing a three-run double to bust the game open at 6-0 in the top of the sixth.
“Ryan Lane was lights-out on the mound for us today,” West Lauderdale head coach Jerry Boatner said. “When he got that double with the bases loaded, the way he was pitching, I knew we had won the game.”
The Knights capitalized on an error by Newton County first baseman Will Brand in the first inning, as he bounced a ball past Tanner Elders at third, allowing West Lauderdale shortstop Will Stokes to scamper home for a 1-0 lead.
West Lauderdale would get two more runs in the top of the second, including a delayed steal of home by left fielder Daniel Hill to make the score 3-0.
Meanwhile, Lane kept Cougar bats unbalanced, working fast on the mound and inducing easy ground outs all night.
“I just tried to get on the mound and throw strikes,” Lane said. “I had pretty good location today. My changeup wasn't working too well, but I made the best of what I could do and just threw strikes.”
Down 3-0 with Knights on first and third and one out in the top of the sixth, Newton County head coach Wyatt Tullos elected to intentionally walk Hill to load the bases. The gamble appeared as if it would pay off, as West Lauderdale center fielder Fred Franklin struck out. However, Lane would make the Cougars pay a batter later, as he lifted a fly down the line in right to clear the bases and double the Knights' lead.
“I just knew that I hit it solid,” Lane said. “It was a good feeling after those runs scored.”
Despite beating the Cougars 4-3 at home Tuesday night, the Knights 17-4 (10-0) needed the win to finish on top of the District 5 standings, as Newton County 15-7 (8-2) held the tiebreaker in the event the two schools finished with the same district record. Boatner said the playoff atmosphere should help the Knights in the postseason.
“Most of the time it doesn't come down to the last game, and Newton County has a really good team this year,” Boatner said. “But, our kids are used to pressure, and we deal with it all the time. I think it will help us, because in the playoffs all the games will be high pressure.”
With the loss, Newton County clinches second place in the District 5 standings and will play the third place team in District 6 in the play-in round of the 4A state playoffs. The division title earns West Lauderdale a first-round bye.
“I think we are peaking at the right time,” Boatner said. “I told the boys, I'm excited about how we are playing right now.