CENTRAL - Despite losing a chance to move into a tie for first place in District 4-5A one day earlier, Live Oak displayed showed some resiliency in its regular-season finale at Central on Wednesday night.
The Eagles, who dropped a nine-inning game to Zachary on Tuesday, scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take an 8-5 victory against the Wildcats.
Kody Guidry’s two-out, two-run single in the sixth broke the 5-5 tie. Then, Branson McCoy shut down Central on one hit over the last two innings.
“I talked to the team after the game,” Live Oak coach Jesse Cassard said. “I told them to forget about that game. I feared that we would come out flat (Wednesday) after a highly emotional game, but we didn’t. The kids didn’t pout. We scored first and then got down. But they just kept fighting.”
The Eagles loaded the bases in the sixth on three bunts – two going for hits and a third resulting in a throwing error when Guidry put Live Oak ahead with his two-run single while two hit batters produce a third run.
“Guidry consistently gives us good at-bats,” Cassard said. “He is a grinder and a warrior.”
There were three lead changes and two ties in the first five innings.
Live Oak (23-10, 6-4) went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first without a hit. Rhett Rosevear was hit by a pitch, moved around to third base on two wild pitches and scored on a sacrifice fly by Smith.
Central (16-16, 5-5) answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Sam Kenerson doubled, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch. The Wildcats added a second run on a walk to Dalton Aspholm and singles by Drew Lasseigne and Eddie Pezant.
Central maintained the one-run lead until the third when Live Oak scored twice without a hit. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases. One run scored on a balk by Andrew Cangelosi, while a second sacrifice fly by Smith put the Eagles on top 3-2.
Central tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Aspholm hit a home run over the right-field fence. Then, the Wildcats regained the lead an inning later by scoring twice without a hit. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases and two runs came across on a pair of wild pitches.
Live Oak came right back in the top of the fifth to tie the score at 5-5 when Sal Palermo tripled in Smith and courtesy runner Jake Miller.
Then, the Eagles had their game-deciding sixth inning.
McCoy, who relieved starter Ethan Prescott with two out in the fourth inning, gave up one hit and struck out five in 3.1 innings. Central had just five hits – three in the first inning.
“The best thing was Branson McCoy,” Cassard said. “He was lights out. We challenged him. He has to be ready for us in the playoffs.”
The Eagles will probably be seeded somewhere between No. 7-9 – meaning they will host an opening round game in the Class 5A playoffs next week, while Central will probably be on the road in its first playoff game.
“The good thing about it is it doesn’t matter how you play in the regular season,” Central coach Mike Forbes said. “It’s how you play in the playoffs. We proved that the last two seasons. Our season is on the line now. We played pretty well last year when our season was on the line.”
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