Laurence Manning foiled Hammond’s plans for a sweep on Friday night at Folsom Field in the SCISA state baseball playoffs.
The host Skyhawks took the first game of the quarterfinal series doubleheader 7-2, and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning in the nightcap. But the visiting Swampcats forced a decisive third game by rallying for an 11-6 win.
The winner of today’s 4 p.m. game in Manning will advance to the semifinals. The loser packs the gear away for another year.
Region 1 champion Hammond improved to 15-5 by breezing in the opener. The Skyhawks scored five runs in the second inning, which was more than enough support for junior pitcher Andrew Lamb.
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John Allen Babson and Kyle Towles were the hitting stars. Both went 3-for-4 with one run scored. Babson had two RBIs, Towles one. Lamb, Jackson Vause and Gus Inabinet all went 2-for-3 with one RBI.
Hammond chased LMA second game starter Trevor Morris in the first inning, and appeared on the verge of a clinching blowout. Morris faced just four batters – allowing two hits and issuing two walks. Senior shortstop Towles, who will play college ball at USC-Lancaster, drilled a double for the first Hammond run, Michael Colllins drew a bases-loaded walk off LMA reliever Nick Gibbons and Lamb smacked a two-out, two-run double.
LMA, however, got to Hammond freshman pitcher Jake Nidiffer in the top of the third inning, scoring five runs on five hits, a walk and one Hammond error. Back-to-back, two-run doubles by Ryan McNair and T.J. Bradley did the major damage.
The Swampcats expanded the lead to 6-4 in the fourth on a solo home run by Heath Smith off Skyhawks eighth-grader Alexander Jenkins, the second of four pitchers employed by Hammond coach Ray Derrick. LMA added an unearned run in the top of the sixth.
Hammond showed some life in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs on an error and a run-scoring single by Towles to cut the deficit to 7-6.
But Laurence Manning put the decision on ice with a four-run burst in the top of the seventh. Smith stoked a two-run single and McNair ripped his second two-run double of the game.