By Allen VanNess
Every win is important but beating your rival who is a mere 11 miles down the road is icing on the cake. In the end, it was the Mansfield Lions who got to enjoy their cake as they rallied to defeat the Hartville Eagles, 6-4, on Tuesday evening.
It didn’t take long for the Hartville Eagles to jump out to a lead. After Mansfield senior starting pitcher Jonah Williamson walked Hartville’s Holton Simmons to lead off the game, senior Jace Keith hit a one-out double to score Simmons.
With a double by senior James Schmidt, an RBI single by Braden Keith and another RBI single by Hagan Simmons, the Eagles quickly found themselves up 3-0 after the first inning.
“They did a really good job with two strikes,” said Mansfield head coach Gary Greene. “They are a really good two-strike hitting team. They put the bat on the ball and don’t give up at bats, so they found some holes early.”
It wouldn’t take the Lions long to narrow the score, however.
After hitting Mansfield junior Jordan Evans and walking another to lead off the bottom of the second inning, Keith gave up a two-out RBI single to senior Sean Neal to pull the Lions within one run, 3-2.
And Williamson was just beginning to settle in.
“I trust the guys behind me,” said Williamson. “I just have to bear down and throw strikes. I haven’t thrown off our home mound here lately with all the rainouts and away games, so I struggled a little. I just had to let off a little bit, so I could just throw strikes, and I just went on from there.”
Throwing strikes is exactly what Williamson did, as he allowed only five hits scattered over the next six innings to shut the door on Hartville.
Even with the stellar pitching, the Eagles wouldn’t make it easy on the Lions, as they displayed some impressive pitching of their own. With bases loaded and only one out in the bottom of the third inning, Hartville head coach Joe Garrison pulled Keith and moved senior James Schmidt to pitcher.
Not only did he get out of the inning unscathed, he also got out of the fourth and fifth innings with a runner at third base as well.
“We just did a really poor job with runners at third base and less than two outs,” said Greene said.
The Lions would finally break through for good in their half of the sixth inning.
After a leadoff double by Devin Kingery, Schmidt would strike out the next two Mansfield hitters. Jonah Gray then hit a bloop single over the third baseman’s head, moving Kingery over to third.
Mason Roy tied the game with an RBI single, and Williamson helped his own cause with an opposite field double off the glove of a diving Hagan Simmons scoring two more runs.
“I wasn’t thinking really,” Williamson said. “I just wanted to put it in play and just went where the pitch did. It was outside, and I just drove it to the opposite field.”
Adding another run to close the inning, Mansfield found themselves up 6-3 and would never look back.
“The bottom part of our lineup so far this year has really carried us from about the sixth hitter on down, “Greene said. “They’ve carried us all year, and the top of our order has not gotten it going yet. They’ve hit some balls hard, but they are still struggling as a group. They finally got it going there in the last inning and when our top guys do what they are capable of doing, then our offense is pretty good.”
Overall, even though the Lions pulled out the victory, Greene knows his team is more than capable of capitalizing in clutch situations.
“They need to make an adjustment and put the ball in play with a runner at third base, but at the same time, it was a great win,” said Greene. “We battled. We didn’t get rattled. We’ve won 17 games in a row dating back to the fall, so we know how to win, but we have to act like we know how to win.”
With the win, the Lions move to 5-0 on the young season, while the Eagles drop to 3-2
Next up, Mansfield travels to Springfield on April 4 to take on Central, and the Eagles host the Cabool Bulldogs on April 11.
Hartville 3 0 0 0 0 0 1—4 10 4
Mansfield 0 2 0 0 0 4 -—6 7 0