ALBANY – Getting the third out can often be the toughest, and it was for Albany in its showdown with Loranger for the District 7-3A title Wednesday night at Albany High.
The Wolves used a pair of two-out rallies to score nine runs over the fifth and sixth innings in clinching the district title with a 12-7 win over the Hornets.
Loranger (19-11 overall, 7-1 in 7-3A) pulled into a tie atop the district standings with Albany (19-10, 6-2) with a 6-4 victory on Tuesday.
“It's tough,” Albany head coach Gabe Woods said. “They're a good baseball team, and I can't take any one thing away from them. I didn't have our guys ready enough to handle those moments, and that's on me. That's not on these guys. They played their tails off this week. We get two outs and we don't get the next play, the next out. A couple of things here and there and we kind of self-destructed, which we have been doing a really good job of not doing, keeping ourselves in ballgames, and the last couple of nights we just haven't done that.”
A three-run double by Reid Rayborn gave Albany a 4-3 lead in the fourth and starter Donovan Giamalva got the first two Loranger batters in the fifth before hitting Shelton Starkey. After B.J. Jackson walked, Starkey advanced on an errant pick-off attempt and scored on a wild pitch. Micah Cleveland relieved Giamalva, and Jackson came in on a throwing error on an infield single by Will Brasher to give the Wolves a 5-4 lead.
Jake Messina and Breyer Zahn followed with run-scoring singles and Clayton Bethel added a RBI triple to build the lead to 8-4.
“It's just tough for us,” Giamalva said. “We tried everything we could and they just got the plays done. There was nothing we could do about it.”
Albany cut the deficit to one in the bottom of the inning as Brock Bankston reached on an error, Joey Smith walked and Giamalva delivered an RBI double. A wild pitch and a ground out to short by Ethan Nelson made it 8-7. But Crayton fielded D.J. Brumfield's grounder back to the mound and threw home to get Acey Martin to keep the Wolves ahead.
Loranger added four runs in the sixth, again doing the damage with two outs. Messina had a RBI single, Bethel plated a pair with a single and a wild pitch scored Zahn for a 12-7 lead.
Zahn pitched two perfect innings to wrap up the win for the Wolves.
Loranger broke on top in the first as Crayton led off with a single to right and eventually came in on Brasher's grounder back to Giamalva.
Albany tied it in the second when Giamalva walked to open the inning, stole second, advanced on a balk and came in as Nelson reached on wild pitch after striking out.
Loranger regained the lead in the fourth as Messina doubled off the right-center field wall and scored when Zahn poked another double into left-center. Zahn came in as Bethel singled to left to put the Wolves up 3-1.
The Hornets answered in their half of the inning as Giamalva doubled with one out and Nelson and Brumfield drew two-out walks to load the bases. Rayborn then cleared them with a double to left-center, giving Albany a 4-3 lead.
Albany is scheduled to visit Parkview Baptist in the regular season finale on Friday. The Hornets, fifth in the Class 3A power rankings as of Tuesday, will learn their first-round playoff opponent on Sunday.
“We're going to do everything we can to get them ready for the playoffs now,”Woods said. “Like I told them, nobody is going worry about coming in second in district if you get a chance to go the playoffs and make a good run. So hopefully, we take care of our business and we do what we are supposed to do.”