Ben Lippen and Hammond played two one-run games during the regular season so the feeling coming into game one of the SCISA Class 3A best-of-three championship series is it would be more of the same.
But it was anything but. The Falcons scored in four of the five innings and walked off with a 12-2 win in five innings to be on the brink of a state title. Game two is set for 7 pm on Tuesday at Hammond.
“Emotions play into it, but our guys are pretty understanding it’s a series,” Ben Lippen coach Matt Padgett said. “We don’t expect this type of score over at their place tomorrow.”
Ben Lippen only collected six hits, but they came in key moments after Hammond allowed free passes or botted a ball in the field for an error. Three Skyhawk pitchers ended up walking six with three hit batters and the defense committed two errors.
Padgett said he thought one of the keys was being familiar with Hammond starter Steven Morrison.
“This is the third time we’ve seen Morrison, so we were very familiar with him,” said Padgett, the former Clemson player said. “We tried to attack fastballs. He tries to change speeds with his breaking ball, but our game plan was to stay middle, stay through the ball and take your singles. We got helped out with a couple of walks, but it was good to see the bats come alive.”
The hits came with runners in scoring position. The Falcons started the scoring with a three-spot in the first. Two walks opened the game before Will Taylor drove in the first of his three runs. Tripp Williams followed with a ground ball to second base that was booted, allowing RJ Samellas and Taylor to score.
Hammond got back within 3-2 in the second with RBI singles from Reece Holbrook and Graham Wilson. Zack Sutton came in after the second and shut the door with three solid innings. He allowed no runs on two hits but more importantly didn’t walk or hit a batter after the Skyhawks had four walks and two hit batters in the first two innings.
“It was big. (Sutton) is big on strikes,” Padgett said. “He can throw three pitches for strikes. I didn’t feel Eli (Johnson) had his best stuff so with the pitch count deal, we have (both) available for Thursday. I felt like we would score some runs seeing the first couple of innings, so if we threw strikes and didn’t give them anything for free, we had a decent chance.”
The Falcons took over starting in the third with three straight frames with crooked numbers. Williams added an RBI single, Alden Gibbs had a run-scoring groundout and Madison Matthews added a run with a sacrifice fly.
They added a four-spot in the fourth. Samellas had a two-run single with Williams and Gibbs adding sac flies to make it 10-2 after four. Ben Lippen loaded the bases with one out in the fifth when Taylor doubled in the gap to end it due to the mercy rule.
“We definitely needed that game one,” Taylor said. “We can relax a little bit more now that we’ve got the game one, but we have to come out firing (Tuesday). We had to set the tone somehow and everybody jumped in the train and followed us.”
WP: Zack Sutton. LP: Steven Morrison. Hitters: BL – RJ Samellas 1-3, 3 runs scored, 2 RBI; Will Taylor 2-2, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 runs scored; Tripp Williams 1-2, 2 RBI; Alden Gibbs 2 RBI; Grant McElveen 2-2, 2 runs scored. H – Reece Holbrook 1-2, RBI; Graham Wilson 1-2, RBI.