Eagles eliminated from playoffs
BY CONOR FOLEY
Down one run in the third inning, Lakeland needed a boost.
Mountain View claimed the game’s momentum the inning before, when Colby Thomas blasted a solo home run to give the Eagles a lead over the Chiefs.
Lakeland catcher James Blevins came up with the boost, and changed the momentum.
Blevins pounded a two-run home run in the top of the third, and third-seeded Lakeland added seven runs in the sixth inning to defeat No. 2 seed Mountain View, 9-2, in a District 2 Class AA semifinal at Mountain View High School on Thursday.
The Chiefs advance to face fourth-seeded Mid Valley in the final Monday at 1 p.m. at PNC Field. Mid Valley beat top seed Hanover Area, 11-6, in Thursday’s other semifinal.
“(Getting to the title game) was our goal from Day 1,” Blevins said. “We accomplished that, so we’re just going to go and go for gold.”
Trailing, 1-0, in the top of the third, Lakeland center fielder Joe Natale walked and stole a base, giving the Chiefs and Blevins a runner in scoring position.
Blevins brought him home.
The junior backstop turned on a pitch, and pulled a high fly ball over the wall in left-center field to give Lakeland the lead.
“Getting up there, I was just looking for contact because we were down, 1-0. I just wanted to get on base,” Blevins said. “I was told to relax, and good things happen when you’re relaxed.
“I just took a nice, easy swing and it worked.”
Working with a lead, Lakeland starter Eric Grabowski retired the last seven hitters he faced, and picked off a runner at first base to end a two-on threat in the third inning. The righty allowed one run over five innings, walking one and striking out four.
“(Blevins’ home run was) a huge boost to us,” Grabowski said. “That gave us life at that point of the game, and we just kept on the pedal from there.”
Lakeland added some insurance runs in the sixth inning, sending 11 batters to the plate and scoring seven times.
With the bases loaded and one out, Natale drove home a pair of runs
with a single. Two batters later, Tyler Brady reached on an infield, RBI single and Blevins scored the fourth run of the inning when the throw got away at first base.
“We knew we needed to score more, and when the bottom of the order comes through like that and brings it back to the top, we’ve got to do our job at the top,” Natale said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing through the playoffs.”
“We’re getting better. We’re where we need to be with the sticks.”
Leading, 6-1, Lakeland’s Shane Rivenburgh drove in a run with a single and Cody Delfino capped the scoring with a two-run base hit.
“That’s the style we play. We’ve been aggressive all year,” Lakeland coach Larry Piccini said. “They made a couple miscues, and we were fortunate enough to capitalize on it.
“We’re really excited. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to play for a gold medal.”
Mountain View added a run in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Nate Goodenough, but that was the closest it would get as Lakeland reliever Sean Pittack closed out the game.
Dylan Thomas started and went the distance for Mountain View, allowing just three earned runs and striking out seven against four walks.
“He probably pitched a little more than I wanted him to on (Tuesday) to get us here, but he was our horse, and that was the way we were going to get to the title game, if we were going to get there,” Mountain View coach Ernest Griffis said. “He did a great job for us, considering.”
Lakeland last won a District 2 title in 2009, when it beat Lake-Lehman, 12-5, in the championship game. Mid Valley will be playing for its first District 2 title since winning it in 1980.