The Meridian Star
COLLINSVILLE –– The West Lauderdale baseball team proved its hot start to the 2013 season was no fluke Saturday afternoon, as the Knights took down Neshoba Central 5-2 at Jerry Boatner Field.
Neshoba Central (11-2) came into the game ranked No. 2 in the state. However, the Rockets' bats were no match for West Lauderdale (12-3) and starting pitcher Mason Woolridge on the day.
“We have been playing some weak teams, and we were able to play a good team today,” West Lauderdale head coach Jerry Boatner said. “We executed and played well all day long. I'm just really proud of the way we played today.”
Woolridge led the Knights on the mound, giving up two earned runs through a complete seven innings while striking out six batters. However, it was not smooth sailing from the start for the West Lauderdale pitcher.
Neshoba's John Carr Bates took the first pitch of the ballgame and lifted it over the left field wall to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead. From there Woolridge would settle down, as he retired the next six Neshoba batters.
“I just knew that I had to get up there and throw strikes,” Woolridge said. “I couldn't let it affect me.”
Woolridge also provided a spark on offense in the second, as he led off the inning with a single. Two batters later, with Woolridge at third base with one out, center fielder Fred Franklin delivered a bunt single on a suicide-squeeze play to tie the game. After an erred throw moved Franklin to third, first baseman Ryan Lane delivered a sacrifice on yet another suicide squeeze to score Franklin and put the Knights on top. The Knights executed the squeeze to perfection on the afternoon, as four of their five runs came by way of the play.
“Last week was my 1,050th win, and we probably won a lot of those games by executing the squeeze play,” Boatner said. “That's what I'm known for, the bunting game and pressuring the other team on the base paths. We put on a bunting clinic today.
“It's demoralizing for the other team when you score runs and don't hit the ball out of the infield. That's what happened for us, guy walks, passed ball and we squeeze him home.”
The Knights would score two more runs in the bottom of the third to take a 4-1 lead before Neshoba threatened in the fourth. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Woolridge walked Rockets left fielder Brady Stephenson to load the bases for Bates. However, Woolridge got out of the jam, as he got Bates to ground out sharply to third to end the inning.
“I just knew I had to locate the ball,” Woolridge said. “I had to put it where he couldn't hit it.”
Woolridge said the win validates the Knights strong start and will provide the team with momentum going forward
“It just gives us confidence in how we play,” Woolridge said. “It makes us a better team.”
West Lauderdale will play travel to Quitman on Tuesday, as the Knights look to continue to remain perfect in district play.
“We needed to play some good competition today,” Boatner said. “The way we played against really good competition today, I am really pleased with our performance.”